The man tasked with win­ning hearts and minds in shale gas rev­o­lu­tion

Yorkshire Post - Business - - FRONT PAGE -

TOM PICK­ER­ING is a de­voted Munro- bag­ger, a pas­time that goes hand in hand with a love of the out­doors, and beau­ti­ful land­scapes.

The Munros, as any ded­i­cated hill­walker will tell you, are moun­tains in Scot­land above 3,000 feet, and they at­tract “bag­gers” who prize their seren­ity. When he’s not brav­ing the fickle Scot­tish weather, Mr Pick­er­ing is out camp­ing. game fish­ing and shoot­ing in his spare time.

He’s not the sort of per­son who would want to spoil a per­fect view. This makes him the per­fect ad­vo­cate for Ineos Shale, a com­pany that has se­cured li­cences for pe­tro­leum ex­plo­ration in parts of the North York Moors Na­tional Park.

The li­cences cover some of the na­tional park, al­though it was de­cided by Par­lia­ment that drilling would not be al­lowed in­side the na­tional park it­self. Jim Rat­cliffe, the Ineos chair­man, pre­dicted that we were about to wit­ness the start of a shale gas rev­o­lu­tion that will trans­form man­u­fac­tur­ing in the UK

Mr Rat­cliffe, who was ed­u­cated at Bev­er­ley Gram­mar School, said that Ineos had the skills to safely ex­tract the gas, and he has promised to talk to lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties about the com­pany’s plans and share the re­wards with them. In 2014, Ineos, a Swiss- based chem­i­cals gi­ant, an­nounced plans to in­vest £ 640m in shale gas ex­plo­ration and appraisal in a move which could make it the big­gest player in the in­dus­try in the UK.

Not ev­ery­one has wel­comed Ineos’s ar­rival in York­shire. Rus­sell Scott, of Frack Free North York­shire, claimed that York­shire would soon be­come one huge gas field, “with grave con­se­quences for our lo­cal in­dus­tries, en­vi­ron­ment, wildlife, health and peace­ful way of life”. Mr Pick­er­ing is an en­ergy in­dus­try vet­eran who wants to use calm anal­y­sis, and com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion, to al­lay th­ese fears. He’s been at the sharp end of the sec­tor, hav­ing worked on North Sea oil rigs, be­fore work­ing as an in­de­pen­dent en­ergy con­sul­tant. He is keen to win hearts and minds.

He said: “Our con­sul­ta­tion and en­gage­ment with the com­mu­nity starts now, not in the fu­ture at the point of frack... A nat­u­ral gas de­vel­op­ment will not only cre­ate jobs, but it will sus­tain ex­ist­ing lo­cal in­dus­try, which re­lies on the... pro­vi­sion of power, and of eth­ane to make prod­ucts.

“You will see us get­ting out and ex­plain­ing the sci­ence, and the process by which this is ap­praised. There will be a very cau­tious, and very thought­ful, man­age­ment of that process.

“We will also take time to lis­ten to the con­cerns that peo­ple have lo­cally, about what they have read and the lo­cal im­pacts, and re­ally start to build that re­la­tion­ship with lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.”

Mr Pick­er­ing is the face of Ineos’s shale cam­paign, and is op­er­a­tional di­rec­tor of the Ineos UK- wide shale busi­ness.

Be­fore INEOS, he started his own busi­ness re­lated to coal bed methane. He be­lieves shale gas is vi­tal for York­shire’s econ­omy and this is a once in a gen­er­a­tion op­por­tu­nity for the UK to take the Euro­pean lead in this area. He also be­lieves that on­shore shale gas ex­plo­ration could pick up the slack, in both jobs and in­vest­ment, for UK en­ergy pro­vi­sion.

The case pre­sented by Ineos runs some­thing like this: Shale gas is nat­u­ral gas that is found trapped within shale for­ma­tions. It is cheaper than other en­ergy sources and is driv­ing a man­u­fac­tur­ing boom in the US, ac­cord­ing to Ineos. In 2000, shale gas pro­vided only one per cent of US nat­u­ral gas pro­duc­tion.

In 2010 it was more than 20 per cent and its sup­port­ers pre­dict that, by 2035, 46 per cent of the US’s nat­u­ral gas sup­ply will come from shale gas. Ineos said it has brought in the most ex­pe­ri­enced US shale ex­perts, who have safely drilled and fracked thou­sands of shale wells.

Mr Pick­er­ing said: “This sus­tains man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs. What we want to achieve as a busi­ness is se­cur­ing en­ergy; ideally en­ergy that’s be­neath our feet.

“( That’s) en­ergy that con­trib­utes to wealth cre­ation in the na­tion rather than im­port­ing ( en­ergy). We think that is some­thing that is achiev­able.

“As an in­dus­try, we have demon­strated that we are safe, and we have won re­spect with com­mu­ni­ties,’’ Mr Pick­er­ing said. “We also think we have a role to play in in­creas­ing em­ploy­ment in th­ese ar­eas, through skilled and tech­ni­cal jobs of­fer­ing long- term em­ploy­ment.”

In North York­shire, the ini­tial work will be done on a desk top. Mr Pick­er­ing and his team will an­a­lyse the his­tor­i­cal records from min­ing op­er­a­tions, and other ge­o­log­i­cal data, be­fore any steps are taken to carry out drilling. He said Ineos was gath­er­ing and ex­plain­ing the data to the reg­u­la­tors and stake­hold­ers and “ad­vanc­ing knowl­edge in a cau­tious, sci­en­tific way”.

“Cou­pled with that is the com­mu­nity el­e­ment of this,’’ he said. “We’re go­ing to work very hard to ex­plain our­selves and ex­plain that sci­ence.” If the anal­y­sis shows that the scheme is vi­able, Ineos could start drilling in mul­ti­ple sites. How­ever, as Mr Pick­er­ing is at pains to point out, this doesn’t mean lots of large rigs will sud­denly ap­pear in parts of North York­shire.

He added: “The re­al­ity is that th­ese will be re­duced down to some­thing the size of a ten­nis court with a small pipe like a fire hy­drant. The ac­tual op­er­a­tions of drilling are three months for a well, and a week for frack­ing.”

Mr Pick­er­ing said that Ineos can con­duct its op­er­a­tions with­out ru­in­ing the view or dis­rupt­ing life nearby.

The UK has an “ex­tremely tight and com­pe­tent” reg­u­la­tory en­vi­ron­ment, which means that shale gas ex­trac­tion must be car­ried out safely, Mr Pick­er­ing said.

He added: “Peo­ple do not have any­thing to worry about at a lo­cal level. We can demon­strate clearly how this will be man­aged, as we have man­aged other busi­nesses for many years, safely and prop­erly.”

Peo­ple do not have any­thing to worry about at a lo­cal level. We can demon­strate clearly how this will be man­aged, as we have man­aged other busi­nesses for many years, safely and prop­erly. Tom Pick­er­ing, op­er­a­tional di­rec­tor

of Ineos’s UK shale busi­ness

York­shire is poised to ben­e­fit from the shale gas rev­o­lu­tion,

says Tom Pick­er­ing. He met Deputy Busi­ness

Editor Greg


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