Sir Richard Dearlove has warned that Britain’s rush to net zero was “admirable but completely unrealistic” while urging Europe to depart from Russian gas dependency and explore other options for securing gas supplies, including fracking.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph’s Planet Normal podcast Sir Richard argued that Britain should adopt a gas-to-nuclear policy – producing “the sort of quality gas the Americans produce through fracking” as well as developing small nuclear reactors.
Sir Richard added that UK shale gas would be essential to help Europeans move away from Russian gas imports amid the possibility of a long-term conflict with Russia.
He said: "We have to have sufficient gas storage and supplies.
"What the European powers that are dependent on Russian gas need is a sort of Berlin airlift of gas supplies to Europe as quickly and as fast as possible so that we change the energy equation.”
His comments come a week after it emerged that Derbyshire County Council is considering plans for coal mining and fracking and fracking in the county.
The joint Derbyshire and Derby Minerals Local Plan identifies a “coal bearing strata at surface” running down almost the entire eastern side of Derbyshire from Sheffield to past Ilkeston.
The plan details that oil and gas had been worked at Hardstoft, Calow and Ironville and that exploratory wells have been sunk at Ridgeway, Bramley Moor, Renishaw, Whitwell, Shirebrook, Heath, Golden Valley and Sawley.
However it rates the prospects of extracting gas from coal mines in Derbyshire’s northern and southern coalfields as “poor”.
The report says there is “little potential” for underground coal gasification in Derbyshire and there has been “no known commercial interest at present”.
As for obtaining gas from shale deposits, the report says shale covers a large part of the county and one site exploration was granted permission in Bramley Moor Lane near the village of Marsh Lane, near Eckington.
This application, from petrochemicals firm Ineos, was approved by Government planning inspector Elizabeth Hill in August 2018 following a heated public inquiry- however the permission expired in August 2021.
It includes a map showing the location of potential hydrocarbon resources from shale gas.
This appears to show an area of land covering Bolsover, Staveley and Eckington in the northern part of Derbyshire and parts of Erewash, including Borrowash and Shadlow, stretching from Derby to Loughborough.
The report quotes oil and gas development as being encouraged in coal mines in active and abandoned coalfield areas.
It details that there is currently an effective moratorium on any further hydraulic fracturing (fracking) consents following seismic activity generated from Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site in Lancashire in 2018.
The report also references the Government’s aim to reach net zero emissions by 2050, which would still be 70 per cent of the current gas usage.
It says the exploration of extracting gas from shale should only be supported if it can be done in a safe and sustainable way, led by science, causes only minimal disturbance and prevents the risk of damage.
The report says: “Modern society and the benefits it enjoys are highly dependent on the continued supply of energy, and whilst the Government seeks to transform energy supply to be derived principally from non-fossil fuel clean technologies, the continued supply of oil and gas will still be required during this transition.
“In view of the lack of knowledge about the location and scale of economically viable oil and gas resources, the plan will maintain their supply by adopting a plan wide policy approach which allows for their exploration, appraisal and production subject to meeting a detailed set of criteria.”
In response, campaign group Transition Chesterfield said: “If Derbyshire County Council spent more time and effort in reducing energy demand – e.g. promoting insulation of homes and buildings or reduction of traffic – and developing renewable energy sources then there would be no need to exploit and extract more climate wrecking fossil fuel energy.
“The council needs to wake up and recognise the devastating consequences of climate change which we are already seeing in Derbyshire.
“We should be taking urgent steps to reduce emissions of carbon, not facilitating the extraction of more unnecessary and damaging fossil fuels.”