A new shale gas company backed by a former Cuadrilla founder has announced plans to explore for natural gas in a West London borough that has banned fracking.
In a release published quietly on their website in June, London Local Energy claim to believe that there may be a huge shale gas reserve below the site of the former White Heather Laundry in the Harlesden area, which it says could provide 12 percent of London’s natural gas demand.
The firm argues that locally sourced shale gas will be much less carbon intensive than exports currently shipped to the UK from countries like the US and Nigeria. They believe that environmentalists are undermining efforts to tackle climate change by stifling dialogue on fracking.
But local councillors and residents have voiced concerns about the plans to frack in their area, citing the impact to pollution and climate change as well as the need to leave a cleaner future for younger generations. A petition against the plans has also been launched.
This is not the first time that London Local Energy has sought approval to frack in London. In 2014, the firm bid for two licenses which covered areas in north west, central and south London. Both bids were denied.
The company is backed by four geologists – one of whom, Dr Peter Turner, is a founder of Cuadrilla Resources, the company planning to frack in Lancashire where the government overturned a local ruling against fracking in 2016.
Nick Grealy, the firm’s chief executive, is a consultant for the shale gas industry and is the publisher of the pro-shale website No Hot Air. He thinks that natural gas should be used in conjunction with renewable energy, because he says the infrastructure does not currently exist to support 100 percent renewables.
“If it is here, then it would be without a doubt the lowest carbon natural gas in the world, and would save, we estimate on conservative figures, 1 million tonnes of CO2 per year.
“I don’t think that it should be controversial – we have to understand the product, not the process.”
But questions remain about the environmental impact that fracking could have near the Stonebridge site, and whether gas well leaks could contribute high levels of methane gas to the atmosphere – which traps more heat than CO2.
Brent Council – the first local authority to ban fracking within its boundaries back in 2013 – remains opposed to any such venture occurring in its Stonebridge ward.
Councillor for Stonebridge, Zaffar Van Kalwala said: “I’m very concerned about any kind of fracking or digging going on in somewhere like Stonebridge, because it’s a very built up area – we’ve got a school right next door to it as well.
“We should instead be focusing on building for the future and leading the way on renewable energy by providing jobs and opportunities, especially for young people in a cleaner and greener London.”
A petition has been launched in opposition to the plans by Brent councillor Lia Colacicco, which has amassed nearly 200 signatures. It raises concerns about the potential for groundwater contamination, saying:
“The people of Brent do not want Fracking because it poses unacceptable risks to people, the climate and the environment.
“We the residents refuse to put up with seismic testing and the contamination of our drinking water in order for large corporations to make profits at our expense. This is not about house prices. Our children’s health is not for sale.
Grealy, however, argues that it is “physically impossible” to contaminate the water supply of London. He did not explain why, but added there has not been one municipal water supply that has been contaminated in the US, and that local wells were to blame for water contamination – something that will not be part of a regulated UK shale gas industry.
Anne-Sophie Morel, an acupuncturist who lives in the area, thinks that fracking will only contribute more pollution to an area already due to be heavily impacted by the new HS2 rail line.
“All of the people I’ve talked to are horrified,” she said. “You know, it’s an area with a big community, there’s lots of schools. None of the people who have children are going to want fracking.”
Waiting for Licensing
Mordechai Chachamu owns Nutural World, a business based at the proposed site on the Artesian Close Industrial Estate. He thinks that fracking will never go ahead in Harlesden.
“I found it almost unbelievable that someone would suggest to start drilling almost under my feet. Originally, I thought that this is a joke – but obviously it isn’t,” he said.
“The idea of using fracking in general for me is quite disturbing as a process, because as far as I’m aware this is a very environmentally hostile kind of operation.”
London Local Energy has tried to allay concerns that the operation would be a blight on London’s landscape by asserting that production could take place on “one football field sized site per 100 square km area”. But despite claims on the firm’s website that they “want what you want”, London Local Energy is yet to consult local people about their thoughts on natural gas extraction.
Councillor Zaffar Van Kalwala has his reservations about the blocking power his council will have should London Local Energy obtain a Petroleum Exploration and Development License (PEDL) from the Oil and Gas Authority.
“Even though the council has been very clear that we do not allow fracking in Brent, my biggest concern is that the government could overrule that as they have in other parts of the country,” he said. In Lancashire locals for months have been protesting Cuadrilla’s plans to frack after central government overturned the local council’s decision to refuse the company’s fracking application.
London Local Energy now awaits the 15th round of licenses to be opened by the Oil and Gas Authority.
Photo: Laura Billings via Flickr | CC 2.0