Fracking jobs are over-hyped says Friends of the Earth, but are they?
As the battle for public opinion intensifies in the run-up to a decision on two planning applications to drill and frack for shale gas in Lancashire, expected at the end of January 2015, Friends of the Earth asserts that fracking jobs claims are over-hyped. But are they?
Campaigners at Friends of the Earth have this week said that claims of fracking jobs numbers are being over-hyped by Government and industry. In truth, nobody yet knows what the final tally will be.
They’re certainly right to point out that there have been a wide range of predictions.
For instance, a report by Regeneris Consulting, commissioned by Cuadrilla Resources, suggested in its central scenario that the development of shale gas could create 1,700 new jobs in Lancashire and a further 5,600 in the rest of the UK. In May 2013, a report by the Institute of Directors found that, at the national level, shale gas development could be responsible for as many as 74,000 jobs whilst, in April 2014, Ernst & Young reported that the supply chain alone could one day employ over 64,500 people.
With such a difference in the jobs figures, it’s easy to see why Friends of the Earth might choose to question them.
But there’s an interesting contradiction in the assertion that shale gas won’t create all that many jobs, when you consider that it comes from an organisation that also claims fracking will industrialise the countryside: it’s hard to see how these two positions can be reconciled. How can something that creates so few jobs be big enough to have that kind of impact?
So how many jobs will UK shale gas be responsible for?
The reality right now is that we just don’t know, and finding out is one of the reasons why more exploration is needed.
So far, and it doesn’t matter who makes them, jobs predictions are just that – predictions.
But there is no doubt that there is enormous scope when you consider the range of supply chain roles that are required throughout the lifecycle of energy extraction, including:
– site selection
– land access negotiation
– planning consultancy
– EIA development
– environmental permitting
– baseline monitoring
– creation of the pad (civils)
– erection of fencing
– delivery of equipment
– drilling fluids
– environmental monitoring
– drilling waste disposal
– mud logging
– wireline logging
– casing supply and installation
– mobilisation of fracturing equipment
– delivery of sand, water, additives
– environmental monitoring
– flowback disposal
– gas to grid civils and connections
– process automation
– site restoration
– permit surrender
One thing is certain: we stand a far better chance of maximising the opportunity for jobs creation if the shale gas supply chain can come to be dominated by smaller companies, which are much more likely to recruit and train new people in order to grow and meet the additional demands placed on them.
Is it true that fracking jobs are short-term?
That all depends on how you define short-term when it comes to jobs.
In our opinion, although the development of Britain’s shale gas resources might only take place for 20 or 30 years at the national level, people that gain work in the industry as it grows in scale will have the opportunity to develop lifelong, transferable skills. Those skills, coupled with the experience they gain, will enable these people to find long-term work elsewhere in the energy sector – including in renewables – and beyond.
And, of course, there’s also the opportunity for people to export their skills abroad. So, we’d say the jobs potential is very long-term.
Are renewables a better bet for jobs?
According to Friends of the Earth, 24,000 jobs could be supported by renewable energy development in the wider North West of England.
Whether this is true or not doesn’t really matter – in a region of the country that has seen some of the lowest levels of growth in the last 10 years, according to a report out just this week published by the Centre for Cities, any industry that can create employment and improve prosperity should be considered. The report notes that, in Lancashire specifically, Preston ranks 58th out of 64 cities in terms of new businesses created, with Blackpool faring even worse, coming in second from bottom in 63rd place.
In our view, it’s wrong to try and juxtapose shale gas and renewables. It’s not an either/or choice – there’s a role for them both to co-exist, especially when you consider that renewables only supply electricity even though most of us use gas to heat our homes in the winter.
Only time will tell how many jobs materialise in Britain’s onshore oil and gas sector. Whatever happens, you can rest assured that the Onshore Energy Services Group will continue to campaign for British SMEs to win their fair share of the supply chain roles that will be on offer, creating jobs and wealth in the communities that play host to shale gas.