Revised and edited 6 February 2019.
INEOS founder, Chairman and CEO Jim Ratcliffe seems to be doing what he often does when things aren’t quite going his way; he spits his dummy out, throws himself on the floor and has a tantrum.
His latest spat was reported in the Daily Mail here on Monday 4 February 2019 in which he petulantly and spitefully hit out at Dame Vivienne Westwood over her, and her son Joe Corre’s support for anti-fracking groups. In the article he says that Dame Vivienne does not care about the jobs fracking would create, without going into any specifics as to what those jobs might be. The Daily Mail described his statement as a “blistering attack” on Dame Vivienne but in fact it is far from it.
What he says is this: ‘There are a lot of people in the North of England who are not very well off and they’re not going to have jobs and there’s no investment. So it’s all very well the politicians who live in Chelsea and Knightsbridge pooh-poohing shale, and Vivienne Westwood [wanting to show] a film every fashion show about how she’s anti-shale … but she doesn’t have to live in the North of England and she isn’t without a job.’
How patronising is that? Both to Dame Vivienne and to those of us who do live in the North of England.
When has Ratcliffe recently visited the North of England to assess what jobs are available, what jobs people are doing, and what communities really want and need? When has he ever graced us with his presence to ask us whether or not we want fracking on our doorsteps? When has he ever taken heed of local communities who, time after time, have repeatedly said we neither want nor need INEOS to come fracking in our midst?
Despite having grown up in Manchester, Ratcliffe clearly knows nothing of the North of England today, he knows nothing of our communities, and he knows nothing of how we are doing alright, thank you very much, without his dirty, polluting and dangerous industry; because he quite frankly couldn’t care less. Yes, we do have our problems but we are striving to look to a new, brighter, cleaner future. With the right kind of investment we can push forward the nation’s move to an energy plan based on renewable resources. Ratcliffe remembers the grime of the old, long-gone factories and wants to re-industrialise the North but we have moved on since then. All he’s interested in is private profit, private financial gain no matter what the cost to anyone else.
“She doesn’t have to live in the North of England and she isn’t without a job“? Ratcliffe appears to be giving this as a reason to deny Dame Vivienne the right to speak out against fracking. This speaks volumes about his aggressive and dismissive attitude to anyone opposed to fracking. If you don’t live in the North and you aren’t unemployed or “not very well off” does that mean you don’t have the right to hold and to express an opinion? And if you do live in the North of England the presumption is that you must be without a job and are crying out for employment? That seems to be what Ratcliffe is saying. It tells you all you need to know about his attitude to local communities in “the North of England”: that we should all be eternally grateful to this humanitarian philanthropist for providing his bounty of countless well-paid jobs. What jobs might they be? Driving HGV’s full of millions of gallons of fresh water to his wellpads, and toxic waste away to disposal units. Oh, and working in shops and cafes to serve the business created by maybe a couple of dozen of on-site workers.
He totally ignores the fact that Dame Vivienne and her son Joe are part of a large movement; a movement of scores of locally-based anti-fracking groups who are strongly opposed to this dirty, polluting and obtrusive industry invading our lives, our communities and damaging our countryside. He summarily dismisses our objections without a second thought. It is noticeable that in this article, local community objectors don’t even get a single mention; Ratcliffe focusses instead solely on Dame Vivienne Westwood. We are not even worth a mention in his eyes.
Ratcliffe (right) is so self-obsessed he doesn’t even seem to notice how much he contradicts himself. In the article he is quoted as saying “It’s ridiculous we’re not allowed to do the science to find out if we’re sat on decent shale gas deposits”. At Bramleymoor Lane, Marsh Lane, Derbyshire (for which INEOS have won the right to drill an exploratory well) INEOS didn’t even bother to carry out seismic testing on the site, despite this being part of the Government-led “Stage 1” procedure as a precursor to drilling. In any event, Ratcliffe is talking about doing “the science to find out if we’re sat on decent shale gas deposits”, in other words, carrying out testing, and sinking exploratory wells. As we at CADAF have been told quite forcibly by INEOS’ lawyers – and as has been upheld by Planning Inspectors – at Public Inquiries, this is not “fracking”.
It is fracking, however, which causes seismic activity, both during the actual drilling process and as “trailing events” which follow on after drilling and fracturing has been ceased. The “red light” 0.5 magnitude cut-off which Ratcliffe is complaining about has no relevance whatsoever to exploratory testing to “find out if we’re sat on decent shale gas deposits”.
In response, Dame Vivienne said “Jim Ratcliffe has lied and said fracking’s to help Britain’s energy security. But the truth is it’s only to either create feedstock [raw material for plastic] or to power his plants to make more plastic.” And she’s right. By INEOS’ own admissions since last summer, they do not intend to feed a single drop of any fracked shale gas into the National Grid. They will keep it all for themselves: and that means there will be no profit returns from selling the gas, which in turn means that the much-vaunted 6% of proceeds (Lynn Calder, former Commercial Director of INEOS Shale, admitted to CADAF that that means “profits”) which INEOS have promised to local communities “inconvenienced” by their fracking operations will amount to precisely zero.
When another company, Cuadrilla, started fracking to extract shale gas (as opposed to exploratory drilling) at their Preese Hall site in Lancashire in 2011, their operations caused seismic activity (earthquakes) which were recorded as reaching up to 2.3 on the Richter scale in April of that year. This was followed the next month by a further event measuring 1.5 magnitude. Consequently, the fracking operations were closed down. As a result the Government set new parameters under which a “traffic light” system was brought into operation which stated that, should fracking operations result in seismic activity registering 0.5 or higher, those operations must be paused for a minimum of 18 hours. The oil and gas industry fully agreed to these new regulations. In October 2018 Cuadrilla again started fracking at a different site not too far away from Preese Hall, at Preston New Road. Within days seismic activity of 0.5 and above began to be recorded and operations had to be suspended on several occasions. The most recent incident recorded a 1.1 event, followed by a “trailing event” of 1.5 magnitude.
In the USA and Canada, it has been observed that seismic activity increases both in frequency and in intensity as fracking continues; and that “trailing events” tend to be more severe than the seismicity caused whilst fracking is in progress. This should be of great concern here in the UK: in North America fracking tends to be carried out in wide open spaces which simply do not exist here in this country where the shale deposits are found: it simply is not possible in the UK to carry out fracking away from tightly-grouped towns, villages and local communities. This seems to have totally escaped Jim Ratcliffe. He wants to lift the “red-light” limit for pausing operations from 0.5 to 4.0 magnitude. He says “They’ve just picked stupid levels. If you drop your handbag on the floor there’s some seismicity. They’ve set a level which is ridiculous, you can’t feel it. If you set [it at] that level then you stop the show – it won’t work in the UK.” He makes it sound like the 0.5 level has just been plucked out of the air by the Government, which is not the case. It has been carefully calculated in conjunction with scientific experts. And we repeat, it was agreed by the oil and gas industry. Whether or not seismic activity can be felt at the surface simply isn’t the point: it’s what’s happening under the ground at and around the point of origin which is important. Is it causing new geological faults through which the chemicals in the fracking fluid can escape and migrate upwards into the aquifers? Is it releasing the toxic chemicals contained in the shale deposits, such as selenium, molybdem and arsenic, all of which are toxic to humans and to livestock? Has the seismic activity caused breaches in the well casings, or otherwise compromised the integrity of the drilling process? It seems that all of these questions have either escaped the attention of Jim Ratcliffe or that he simply couldn’t care less.
He even lies when he says that a magnitude of 4.0 is “typically set” in the USA. It would seem that not one single State in the US has such a high limit: and in Canada only Alberta and British Columbia operate to such a high threshhold. Link here.
It seems that Ratcliffe is reverting to his old tactic: when things aren’t going his way he spits out his dummy and demands that the Government bend over backwards to accommodate him. He has form for this kind of behaviour. He did it in 2010 when he moved INEOS’ headquarters to Switzerland after Gordon Brown refused to defer their VAT liabilities, something which has never been done for any business. They only moved back when the shale gas PEDL development licences went up for grabs and Ratcliffe wanted a piece of the action.
In 2013, at their Grangemouth petrochemicals plant, INEOS suspended a Union leader over allegations of “inappropriate use of company reources”. This was used as an excuse to temporarily close the plant, which INEOS would only re-open if the workforce accepted a pay freeze and changes to their pensions and Union representation; nothing to do with the suspended official. The Unions and employees capitulated under Ratcliffe’s threat to shut the plant permanently with the loss of hundreds of jobs.
This time he has thrown down the gauntlet to the Government to either put up or shut up: back him by relaxing the “Gold Standard” regulations or call an end to fracking in the UK. (Link here).
In doing so, Ratcliffe has made this a question of who makes the rules. Industry bosses must not be allowed to set the legal safety regulations governing their operations. Relaxing the regulations would mean making it less safe to frack in order to make it possible to frack.
But will Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (seen right, with his Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, Claire Perry) agree to Ratcliffe’s demands? Could he be shifting slightly towards a more renewables-friendly policy? Here’s an interesting article which hints that maybe a switch in emphasis might be in the air.
We say to Greg Clark and to Claire Perry: do not capitulate to this bullying. Do not give in to Ratcliffe, or to the Cuadrilla CEO, Francis Egan. Call their bluff, maintain the traffic light system at its present level, and if INEOS and Cuadrilla don’t like it, then tough. There will be no tears shed at their departure.
For further reading, see also the Guardian.