Cuadrilla’s new survey is clutching at straws again

Many of you will recall with amusement the car crash that was Cuadrilla’s public opinion survey a couple of months ago. (If you missed it there is an analysis here)

Obviously desperate to make back some of the lost ground they commissioned a further survey straight after the announcement on December 13th that shale gas exploration should continue.

Imagine our surprise to find out that this survey, carried out in the 3 days immediately following the blanket media coverage of the announcement found that more people had now heard of fracking.

Knowledge levels in relation to natural gas from shale have increased. 64% of respondents said they know “a lot” or “a little” about natural gas from shale, compared to 53% in the October survey.

Do you think any of those asked also realise that the Pope is Catholic or have some knowledge of where bears like to defecate?

Apparently though

The most important potential benefits continue to be job creation and cheaper energy

which is quite sad really, given that job creation and cheaper energy are myths propagated by the industry but widely discredited by most intelligent commentators. (see our myth busting section)

They go on to claim that

Support for continued exploration in the local area to understand the potential for natural gas from shale in the UK has risen from 44% to 50%.

but admit in their explanation of their methodology that:

Statistics reported for the December sample (n=503) are statistically significant at the 95% level subject to a confidence interval of +/- 4.5 percentage points

hoping perhaps that most people won’t either read that or understand that it makes the “increase” statistically very wobbly indeed. For reference the October sample had a confidence interval of +/- 3 percentage points as the sample size was twice as big (n=1001). To put this another way with such large confidence intervals involved, there is a very good chance that there has been no significant change at all in support and than any “increase” is simply a result of sample error due to the reduced sample size, but they don’t mention that now do they 🙂

In fact it would be probably be reasonable to expect greater support to be expressed by a local population who believe that their elected representatives are acting in their best interests and have now come to a decision based on facts. (Some of us though are starting to question that assumption based on what we have already seen around the regulatory environment.)

Picking up on criticism that the original survey totally ignored regulation as an issue the report goes on to say

Respondents were read out the following information:

The Government announced that companies who are given a license to
conduct fracking must:
• Conduct a review of seismic risks and faults in the area;
• Submit to the Department for Energy and Climate Change a detailed
plan showing how any seismic risks are to be addressed;
• Carry out seismic monitoring before, during and after the fracking
• Implement a “traffic light” system to identify unusual seismic
activity requiring reassessment, or halting, of operations

When given information on the regulatory requirements surrounding fracking:
64% said this made them feel more supportive about continued exploration in their area
15% said this made them feel less supportive about continued exploration in their area

We have to wonder what the answer would have been if, instead of being reassured about regulations on seismic activity, the respondents had been given some more relevant information on the regulations that are currently missing.

If the survey had said

Respondents were read out the following information:

There is currently no regulation in the areas of

  • cement quality via on site sampling and laboratory testing
  • cement bond logs
  • annular pressure readings (instruments used, calibration, how recorded in SCADA etc.)
  • examination of formation integrity tests as they are executed
  • surface methane detection (baseline and operational)
  • post tremor actions
  • publication of which “fracking” chemicals used at each well with MSDS
  • flow back water storage and disposal (Permit)
  • recycling of flowback
  • flowback water quantity verification
  • green tanking
  • fugitive emission monitoring and reduction
  • bond for abandonment
  • sourcing water from mains (pressure issues)
  • testing of local boreholes/wells.

and then asked whether, when given information on the regulatory requirements surrounding fracking this made them feel more supportive about continued exploration in their area, do you think the answer might have been a little different? We do!

Pretending to derive meaningful results from this sort of leading question is highly questionable in our opinion.

We can’t help noticing that the report is pretty sloppily put together – graphs show wrong sample sizes and have typos (although they may correct that when they read this of course). It’s not a great advert at all really. Pretty much par for the course – as Dr James Verdon of the University of Bristol says on his blog

Cuadrilla’s fumbling attempts at PR have been pretty pathetic

In the meantime Cuadrilla’s Francis Egan is trying hard to make the most of this new survey saying

Clearly the more people hear about and talk about shale gas in Lancashire the more informed they are about the potential advantages it can bring, as well as the environmental considerations that need to be managed. A well-informed community can have the constructive public discourse this industry needs to be successful in the UK.

which is all very well, but in that case he really needs to stop saying things like

There is no evidence of aquifer contamination from hydraulic fracturing


Cuadrilla’s fracturing fluid does not contain hazardous or toxic components

We are all for constructive public discourse, but it needs to be based on the truth! If one party keeps misleading the other the constructive dialogue just can’t happen can it?

Sadly this new survey has sunk beneath the waves with almost no attention from national or regional press. What a shame!

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