INEOS bosses fail to ‘love bomb’ Denny residents


By Liz Thomson

If the performance by INEOS bosses at the first fracking community engagement event was reflective of the strength of their case – the shale industry should be worried.

Operations Director Tom Pickering and Business Development Manager Gary Haywood were left visibly rattled in a clash with Denny residents on Thursday. The public meeting at Denny High School was the first of six intended to persuade local communities to back fracking in the central belt.

INEOS have been granted two Petroleum (PEDL) licences by Westminster to extract shale gas using hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” across the midland valley stretching from Fife to Glasgow. Mr Pickering believes initial explorations will not be subject to the moratorium placed on the technology by the Scottish Government, pending a public consultation and health impact assessment.

The two representatives arrived on Thursday evening armed with a series of promotional videos, slideshows and glossy literature. However, what many anticipated to be a slick public relations exercise in ‘love bombing’ quickly backfired.

The presentation, aimed at debunking “emotive and misleading” myths surrounding the safety of the technology was challenged at every turn by campaigners and residents.

INEOS recently announced that 6 per cent of shale gas revenues would go to communities “close to wells”. However, it was revealed that a “community” could be defined as up to 60km from a well site. Therefore residents living next to a development in Falkirk could be forced to share financial rewards with those living in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Mr Pickering also indicated that INEOS would consider the use of compulsory purchase orders to force residents who declined payment from their properties.

The INEOS bosses attempted to focus their argument for fracking on claims that the safety of the industry would be guaranteed by the robust UK regulatory framework. The pair repeatedly referred to a report by The Royal Society backing the expansion of fracking across the UK as evidence that the Industry could proceed safely. However campaigners said the report is flawed, as the authors have no public health expertise.

Mr Haywood stressed that stringent regulation would ensure the UK experience of fracking would differ from that of the US, where the process has resulted in contamination of water supplies. He insisted that Local authorities in Scotland would enforce higher safety standards as a prerequisite for planning permission and that SEPA will effectively regulate the process and the content of chemical additives contained in frack fluid.

However, when asked how INEOS could guarantee that SEPA will remain well resourced enough in the face of funding cuts to fulfil such a role, the pair back tracked, stating:

“Clearly it is not up to us to ensure that SEPA have enough resources but we’re sure they will”.

Mr Haywood added:

“Nobody can give you a cast iron guarantee that there will be no incidents but hopefully the water won’t be contaminated.”

Questions were raised over the capabilities of SEPA to regulate the unconventional extraction of fossil fuels in 2013 when it emerged that the regulatory body had known about faulty borehole construction at a coal bed methane development in Canonbie, but failed to act.

A study published in the Environmental Law Review has also called into question the adequacy of the overall UK regulatory framework to monitor the shale industry. The paper, authored by Joanne Hawkins of Bristol University warned that reliance on oil and gas regulations designed pre – fracking poses significant risk to human health and the environment.

Ms Hawkins findings also challenge claims by INEOS that chemical additives used in fracking fluid will be assessed by regulatory bodies.

She states:

“The chemicals used in fracking are not necessarily regulated via a ground-water permit. Nor are they effectively regulated via dedicated chemicals regulation. The current description system for chemical use does not provide a suitable category to describe the use of chemicals in fracking.”

In response to concerns about proximity of activity to communities last Thursday Mr Pickering claimed that wells would be placed a safe distance from ‘major residential areas’. However residents reacted with horror when he revealed that developments could be located just 400m from communities. The Scottish Government’s Planning Policy recommends a 2km buffer zone but ultimately allows industry to decide.

Commenting on the presentation, Concerned Communities of Falkirk activist Maria Montinaro said:

“The minimum 400m buffer zone was a complete shock to the audience and although both Tom Pickering and Gary Haywood stated they wouldn’t mind a well 400m from their own homes the same could not be said for the majority of the audience at Denny High School that night.

“The audience did not get satisfactory answers to questions on why New York State have banned the Industry, what eventually happens to the contaminated flow back water once “treated”, or to the wells after abandonment.

“A concern raised by a member of the audience experiencing a fall in property value was denied by INEOS despite studies confirming insurers will not cover risk exposure attributable to this type of industry.

“When problems arise it will be for individuals communities and councils to prove the Industry is responsible and then be financially prepared to pursue long drawn out claims through the courts.”

Public Health Professor, Andrew Watterson added:

“The Ineos presentation appeared somewhat confused at times about who regulated what in the UK. From a company that in the USA has been fined millions of dollars under Clean Air legislation, that is a worry.

“Ineos oddly seemed to be in denial about the many research and peer reviewed publications that raise important questions about the public health impacts of fracking. Their constant citing of a Royal Society report on UGE safety, compiled primarily by engineers and geologists, which barely contains any substantial public health research did not instill confidence in the company’s ability to address objectively the evidence and arguments about future fracking health risks.

“Ineos presented a flimsy assessment on fracking chemicals and their toxicity which appeared to rely heavily on DECC information that in turn was drawn from Cuadrilla. Some of Cuadrilla information on the supposed non-toxicity of fracking fluid and Cuadrilla’s view that there was no evidence of aquifer contamination from fracking was politely described as misleading by the Advertising Standards Agency in a number of findings against the company. It is to be hoped that Ineos will provide more rigorous risk assessment of such chemicals and fracking’s engineering risks in the future than Cuadrilla has so far achieved.”


* * *

There are a further five community meetings scheduled in Alloa, Falkirk, Kilsyth, Bishopbriggs and Cumbernauld. A link to times and dates can be found here:

Categories: Environmental Justice

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24 replies

  1. Sky News today reporting a massive rise in earthquakes in Texas since fracking was introduced there. A price worth paying?

  2. Contaminated water is the least of the problems that have arisen in the US. How about a 10x increase in earthquakes? Or as the US Geological Survey likes to call it “injection-induced seismicity”.

  3. Well done, Denny! We await them in Cumbernauld, and at the recent political hustings, we got an assurance from the 3 PPCs, that they would attend. We have had good support from local SNP councillors.
    If there is one issue that should get you off your ass, it’s this one. You will have a gas field fitted retrospectively, and all that entails. Google fracking, and read a bit about USA and Australia, and the emerging evidence on dangers. This is honestly the most scary and disgusting exploitation of communities. Please get informed, and support your local group.

    • I am totally against Fracking and will never believe the lies these neoliberal corporate fascist’s try to put forwards as truth.
      We know what the evidence is, having seen the results in america with toxic water and methane emulsion.
      the citizens should decide , with holyrood politicians doing our bidding.
      We do not want fracked fuel sent over from america.
      This could have consequences under the TTIPs if we the citizens are not vigilant.
      No fracking here.

  4. Are Ineos going to compulsory purchase the whole of the central belt?
    We could have a Lowland clearance on our hands with people being ejected from their homes and transported to the Highlands where fracking won’t be happening.
    Unless we have a big SNP contingent at Westminster,there will be dirty underhand tricks to force this through.

  5. I was present at the meeting. It was an absolute shambles. Two Ineos (miked-up) spokesmen, no chairperson and one microphone between the whole audience. This resulted in both Ineos men often refusing to answer questions, talking over the top of people resulting in shouting from the audience and a complete disarray of structure. Their information videos were an insult to anyone’s intelligence. Gary Haywood lost the rag at one point and had to pull himself back from shouting at an audience member.
    The room was only 2/3 full due to strange blocks of tkt release – so that when many tired to get tkts initially, there were none left… only for them to release more (unannounced) later.
    A meeting organised a few weeks earlier by ‘Denny & Dunipace against Unconventional Gas’ was standing room only in the same venue.
    When asked about the ban in New York (after trying to buff the question, resulting in the audience standing up and demanding that they answer) Tom Pickering said that the reason for the ban was due to there ‘being lots of Democrats and environmentalists living there!’ (I kid you not!)
    The local people were fabulous. Very informed and very vocal. Well Done Denny.

  6. I thought, correct me if I am wrong, that only the State had the right to compulsory purchase? It would mean the state would have to be in collusion with the frackers against the wishes of local people for that to fly.

    Or do INEOS have a special dispensation? I imagine there is much money to be had in exploiting yet another natural resource and handing back peanuts to the local community, who are the ones who are at risk, after all.

    • In the US private companies can apply to compulsory purchase and this power has been shamefully abused there. I expect these two think the law is the same on both sides of the Atlantic. When a project of national importance like HS2 is run there is compulsory purchase and the contractors will be private companies but it is government power backing the project that gives the legal power to do so.

      No SNP government is going to sanction that for fracking. These Ineos numpties are in cloud cuckoo land if they think it will be. I expect they don’t fully realise what devolution means and think that a London Tory govt’s writ runs up here on such matters, when it doesn’t.

  7. I was in the audience at the Community Engagement Meeting held in Denny High School and I could not believe how poorly the Ineos representatives presented their case for the fracking industry. Alarmingly neither Tom Pickering or Gary Haywood knew the basic difference between an area of 100 square kilometres and an area of 100 kilometres squared, causing uproar from the hall when both insisted “They are the same”. Their introductory film, which was an insult to the intelligence, even implied that without fracked ethane gas there would be no clothes for us to wear. When a challenger pointed out the abundance of natural fibres available Gary Haywood referred to the gaffe as “flippant tongue in cheek” to howls from the audience responded that the threat to public health from their planned operations was not a laughing matter to be taken lightly.
    My impression at the end of the evening was that I doubted if anyone in the audience had been persuaded by the Ineos presentation and the performance of the company representatives certainly did not instill confidence in their oft repeated claims that Ineos can be trusted to conduct shale gas operations in a safe manner without detriment to public health and the environment. Ineos has hugely underestimated the well-informed opposition they face and should note – the days when big business could get their own way through misinformation and glossy propaganda leaflets are long gone!

  8. Go home you fracker’s: it isn’t going to happen…..EVER.

  9. Remember Re chem close to Denny another environmental success story, Please pay close attention. these industries all work on anticipated outcomes to the processes they carry out their whole ethos is to extract as much profit as quickly as possible the damage and disruption they will cause will be hidden until it surfaces in years to come long after they have gone or go bankrupt because the cost of clean-up will outweigh the assets of the remaining company in short we will be left with their mess this always happens this must be stopped from even getting off the ground the mere mention of compulsory purchase orders should ring alarm bells ,looking forward to their presentation in Cumbernauld

  10. I have not got a clue about technical details but crude oil companies may be scaring countries out of using fracking tech.Or are they both the same.

  11. I heard that George Osborne’s father in law is behind the fracking push in this country. But this is not a service we want here, increase in earthquakes, poisoning our water, gas which can leak up the drilling and explode. 15% of the poisons left in the drilling wells. We cannot agree to this in this country, they will walk away with the money and we will be left with the long term damage. God knows what health implications we are handing on down to our children. FRACK OUT.

  12. Compulsory purchase orders? Tell us more.

  13. Good for them mibbees make them realise but doubt it & fight just starting. Keep at them & MSP’S & MP’S. Get into it

  14. No one knows the exact amount of shale gas there is in the UK nor how much of it is commercially recoverable but estimates suggest that it is a fraction of the reserves of the USA and what is commercially recoverable would still not meet all our energy needs so the UK would still have to import gas.

    Most if not all of the potential shale gas sites identified in Scotland are in the Central Belt – the area of Scotland with the highest population density.

    The sheer scale of the proposed tracking sites would be like having hundreds of mini- Grangemouths dotted across the landscape all with their flares burning away merrily while they destroyed the ground beneath our feet – and homes.

    If you want to find out more about tracking then the University of Nottingham runs as 4week course under the Future Learn banner. It is a free course open to anyone and delivered via the internet.

  15. Was it those sensible Germans that placed a seven year moratorium on fracking?
    Must be a reason, someone should ask them.

  16. “The minimum 400m buffer zone was a complete shock to the audience and although both Tom Pickering and Gary Haywood stated they wouldn’t mind a well 400m from their own homes the same could not be said for the majority of the audience at Denny High School that night.

    They can state that they wouldn’t mind a well 400m from their own homes because their is no chance of them having a well 400m from their own homes. The public are not as stupid as this lot think they are.

  17. Sorry – should be “there is no chance” in the 3rd line from bottom. Mea culpa.

  18. First I am not a Greenie. I live in Denny and was at the meeting. The last time we interfeard with nature we ended up with CJD. Our Beef farmers are still trying to recover from this with USA and Canada refusing any Offal from the UK which completly closes a Huge Haggis market to these counties. I shudder to think that what a whisper of water contamination would do to our Whiskey and Produce industries. The two reps from Ineos were short of usless and left you wounderinghow they perform at their day job. Please vote against this!!!!

  19. The start of being a ‘Greenie’ might be concern about what’s happening to your/the environment. It sounds as though you’ve ticked that box. Things are connected.

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