Shale gas initiative receives more than 1,500 responses

UKOOG, the representative body for the onshore oil and gas industry has completed its first pilot of the ‘Let’s talk about shale’ initiative in Preston, Blackpool and Lytham St Annes, with over 1,500 responses submitted by the public.

UKOOGMore than 700 questions have been answered by leading experts, institutions and academics. The remaining 800 responses were statements as opposed to questions.

The most asked question in the study was the neutral 'what is shale gas and fracking?', with some 20 percent of people who responded to the initiative asking for more information on the subject. The most prevalent topic for questions submitted related to understanding more about potential environmental impacts of shale gas exploration.

Around 20 percent of people who responded to the initiative asked for more information on the subject but the most prevalent topic for questions submitted related to the environmental impacts of shale gas exploration.

The ‘Let’s talk about shale’ programme was initiated by the onshore oil and gas industry in recognition of the fact that the general public is subjected to a stream of information from a range of sources, much of which is contradictory. Unlike previous initiatives, ‘Let’s talk about shale’ allows people to ask the questions they want the answers to.

The ‘Let’s talk about shale’ pilots, launched on 8th September in Preston, Blackpool and Lytham St Annes encouraged peopled to ask anything they would like to know about the principles of shale gas through a dedicated website. In addition, people got involved by sending freepost postcards, attending numerous ‘Speaker Club’ events held with local groups, clubs and organisations, and via the ‘Let’s talk about shale’ team and branded van in shopping centres, town centres and market squares. The ‘Let’s talk about shale’ team engaged with over 2,500 people throughout September. The initiative was also piloted in Lincoln and Worksop.

The question-gathering phase of the pilot came to a close at the end of October, and the programme has spent the last few weeks collating the questions and gathering answers from third party experts and materials, including public agencies.

Ken Cronin, Chief Executive of UKOOG, said: “We are delighted that there has been so much interest from the public and such an overwhelming response. There is clearly a significant appetite from people to learn more about shale gas if they have the opportunity to ask questions.”

“With the first pilot over, I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has been involved and who has engaged with us. Given the huge response to the initiative, we look forward to creating new opportunities for the public to ask their questions next year.”

“We also look forward to further engagement with public agencies and respected research institutions to ensure research continues to be conducted into the issues people want more information on.”

Dr James Verdon, geophysicist at the University of Bristol, was one of the many academics who helped answer the public’s questions. Dr Verdon said: “I grew up right next to an active oilfield in the UK, which was so discreet that I had absolutely no idea the wells there until I went to university to study geology. But I am aware that unless people have the opportunity to talk about what shale gas development may mean for them, it is harder to have a full conversation about the benefits a new source of gas may bring to the communities across the country. This is why I have been so pleased to be involved in this initiative.”

Professor Joe Howe of the University of Chester, who is leading many of the presentations to local community groups, said: “’Let’s talk about shale’ is a great initiative. Many people have questions about shale gas but don’t know where to look for definitive answers. The information gathered on this website, in response to people’s genuine questions, will help to dispel the myths and respond to what the public want to know.”

Prof Sarah O’Hara of the University of Nottingham said: “I strongly believe that the public should have an opportunity to ask questions about shale gas and that they deserve to get unbiased and scientifically informed answers. One of the things that has impressed me about the Talk About Shale website is that the questions that people are asking are thoughtful and very pertinent and it provides a clear indication of the sort of issues that people are concerned about.” The initiative received overwhelmingly positive feedback from those who engaged with the Speaker Club. A participant from a community organisation in Blackpool said that it was “very useful to have the facts about the fracking process and the regulation.”