Fracking story in the Western Mail – fuel to the propaganda war!

The Western Mail today carries a story by Peter Law on a report issued yesterday by a team from the University of Texas Energy Institute (UTEI), that claims fracking pollution of groundwater is ‘unproven’. What it really amounts to is a lot of nothing, but it is being jumped on for propaganda purposes.

See the report in the paper here: (My words near the end have been subject to some pretty dreadful editing, but the drift is clear enough)

As you will see from this URL, our old friend Gerwyn Williams, of Bridgend-based two-bit company Coastal Oil & Gas, is keen to twist it for his own ends. Only a complete idiot would suggest that there is any absolute proof that any industrial process, let alone one that involves explosives, nasty chemicals and very high pressure hydraulics, is totally safe. But the report from the UTEI doesn’t say this at all.

The key passage is quoting Lead Scientist Dr Groat:
The immediate concern with shale development and hydraulic fracturing is that fracturing at several thousand feet below the surface would put chemicals in the groundwater that people drank that would be very bad for your health.”

An important part of our study was to determine whether or not there was any direct verified evidence that fracturing itself was producing contaminated waters that ended up in that process in the groundwater.”

Our preliminary finding is we have found no demonstration that that has happened.

Hardly conclusive proof of anything, but clearly leaning towards wanting to exonerate the frackers. The fact that Dr Charles Chip Groat is such an eminent and well respected geologist (, in the twilight of his career (72 next month), lends it some credibility …… Or does it?

The self same Dr Charles “Chip” Groat (there can only be one of them, surely!) just so happens to have fallen on his feet late in life, with a Directorship of a Houston based company called Plains Exploration & Production Company (PXP). His total ‘compensation’ package was worth $308,300.00 in 2009, and $493,598.00in 2008. He only took up the position in November 2007.

And just what does this company do? Its website does not say a lot ( but it does say this:

“PXP is an independent oil & gas company primarily engaged in the activities of acquiring, developing, exploring and producing oil and gas in its core areas of operation: California, Texas and Louisiana.”

So maybe just the faintest hint of a vested interest, Dr Charlie “Poker Chip” mega-Groats!

But maybe I am being a bit harsh on the old man. His report goes on to say that there is a need to carry out more sampling and analysis of groundwater, to get to the bottom of where contamination was coming from. He also recognises that more baseline studies are also required to show what conditions are like before the start of drilling operations. This would make it easier to establish what effects should or should not be attributed to fracking. Which pretty much sounds like a case for at least a moratorium while all this work is done, wouldn’t you agree, Gerwyn?

And incidentally, Peter Law, for the sake of balance, it would have been worth including these aspects of the UTEI report in what you printed. However, your story does include other bits that support our case rather than Gerwyn William’s:

  • “The scientists found many problems attributed to fracking are common to all oil and gas drilling systems. Many reports of contamination could be traced to above-ground spills or mishandling of wastewater rather than the fracking technique itself, they said.”

How reassuring is this?

As for Gerwyn trotting out the the old chestnut of frack fluid being 96% water and 4% food additives, I look forward to him taking a few sips of a sample in front of us all at the Inquiry in May! Now that would be re-assuring and closer to absolute proof! I will get the recipe from Dr Theo Colborn for him, although even she has not worked out some of the secret ingredients yet!

I have a growing feeling that the Public Inquiry in May is going to be a lot of fun!

9 thoughts on “Fracking story in the Western Mail – fuel to the propaganda war!

  1. Pingback: Listen to audio interview applicable to industry funded Energy Institute study exonerating fracking | Arlington TX Barnett Shale Blogger

  2. John A. Evans

    Hi Andy,
    The Times. Friday 17th Feb. An article by one Tim Whipple, headlined, Controversial gas mining technique given green light by US expert study. This article, mostly used the same quotes and interpretations, as the one in the Western Mail. Only in the very last paragraph, did they use a quote, that makes any sense. Raymond Orbach, director of the University of Texas Institute, who commissioned the study, said: “Given the magnitude of the resources becoming available, this is a major issue. It is important that whatever policy is put together by governments be based on the very best science.”


  3. Mavis Thomas

    You should go along to this event, You might learn something instead of spouting hot air….. Might be a bit advanced for your basic geography & geology degree though???


    European Shale Gas: Risk, Regulation and Research Challenges
    Durham Energy Institute, CeREES & IGEM Conference, Durham University, March 27th- 29th 2012
    Shale gas has been a game-changer in the USA, but has yet to be exploited commercially in Europe. Recent discoveries of ‘vast reserves’ in the UK, however, coupled with claims of aquifer pollution and induced earthquakes, have made shale gas big news, and with big news come big challenges. From the geological distribution and exploration, to the technical issues of exploitation and regulation, these challenges require an integrated approach that unites all interested parties. Organized by DEI, IGEM, and CeREES, this international, interdisciplinary meeting will bring together policy makers, scientists, engineers and stakeholders. It has the twin aims of informing new codes of practice for UK shale gas exploitation, and of building UK and European research capacity in shale gas and other unconventionals. With invited presentations from recognized experts in all areas of the field, coupled with workshops and plenary discussions, it represents a unique opportunity to inform the future directions of shale gas exploitation, regulation and research in the UK, Europe, and beyond.

    Book for the event here:

    Confirmed speakers include:

    Claire Curtis-Thomas (Chief Executive Officer, IGEM)

    Tony Grayling (Head of Climate Change and Sustainable Development, Environment Agency)

    Professor Andy Aplin (Sir Joseph Swan Centre for Energy Research, Newcastle University)

    Dr Iain Scotchman (Senior staff geologist, Statoil UK)

    Professor Richard Selley (Imperial College)

    Professor Quentin Fisher (University of Leeds)

    Dr Simon Mathias (Durham University)

    Nick Grealy (Principal and publisher, No Hot Air)

    John Baldwin (Managing director, CNG Services)

    Graham Dean (Managing director, Reach CSG)

    Professor Jon Trevelyan (Durham University)

    Professor Roger Crouch (Durham University)

    Toni Harvey (Senior geoscientist, DECC)

    Dr Stanislaw Mazur (Institute of Geological Sciences – Polish Academy of Sciences)


    1. swanseaandllanelligreenparty Post author

      Thank you for the heads up, Mavis – I will see if I can get there.

      I presume you are well qualified in the field yourself from your judgemental tones. I would love to exchange knowledge with you and engage in rational debate over the issues sometime. These issues go beyond such levels of debate into the realm of greed and self-interest however, as I am sure you are only too well aware.


  4. Pingback: SOUTH WESTERN ENERGY… AN INVESTIGATION | Subject. Object.

  5. Pingback: GERWYN: BREAKING GAS 2012-16 | Subject. Object.

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