Leaked UK government numbers cast doubt on fracking industry predictions for the future

15th February 2018 | Commercial Energy

A leaked government document has confirmed many of the claims of anti-fracking protesters. The government’s expectations are shown to have been lower than industry forecasts, Questions are now being asked about how realistic the initial forecasts were.

The confidential document, seen by Greenpeace Unearthed investigations team, shows that the government expected 155 shale wells by 2025, compared to forecasts of up to 4,000 wells by 2032 made earlier this decade. This 4,000-well forecast appeared in a 2013 report from the Institute of Directors (IoD), which outlined the UK’s future shale gas potential. With such a discrepancy between this and the government’s own figures, it raises the question as to why the prediction was so wrong, but also why numbers from it continue to be used.

Fracking industry

The IoD report received widespread media coverage and drove much of the narrative around development scale. But at the time, the numbers were flagged as unlikely, and report authors were unable to clarify the metrics behind them. The fact the report was sponsored by fracking company Cuadrilla Resources raised further questions about its credibility.

Report author Corin Taylor subsequently worked in communications for gas company Centrica, and is now a director at the UK Onshore Operators Group (UKOOG) which represents oil and gas companies. UKOOG’s chief executive Ken Cronin joined in 2013, and was previously at communications firm Kreab Gavin Anderson where he was responsible for energy companies including shale gas firm IGas Energy.

Despite questions raised about the IoD forecast, the 4,000-well figure reappeared in a 2014 report written by accountancy firm EY, commissioned by UKOOG. The report also estimated there could be over 64,000 jobs by 2032, based on the original IoD well estimate. The EY report featured a foreword by then minister of state for business and education Michael Fallon, who went on to use the 64,000-jobs figure in a speech given at a conference where he set out why the UK needs to develop shale.

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