Government advisors sponsored by fracking industry

The British Geological Survey headquarters in Nottingham. The BGS is partly funded by the oil and gas industry.

The British Geological Survey plays a key role in UK government’s view of fracking.  Yet the BGS’s annual report reveals the organisation is partly funded by companies involved in the hydraulic fracturing industry, including Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon, BG Group and Schlumberger.

The BGS’s close financial ties to industry raises questions about the impartiality of a widely-awaited BGS report commissioned by the UK government. This report will form the basis of any government decision to restart fracking in Lancashire. The government has previously commissioned the BGS to report on the UK’s Shale Gas potential, and the BGS also gave expert testimony to the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change on the same subject.

The BGS sourced 29% of its revenue from ‘external projects’ in 2010/11 (see p38 of the BGS annual report). One of those project was the Edinburgh Anisotropy Project. The EAP website bears the logo of 23 oil and gas companies, most of which have interests in hydraulic fracturing. The industry uses anisotropy to model leaking gas wells.

The BGS annual report states: ‘The EAP has increased its international reach over the years so that it now counts almost every major oil company among its sponsors.’

The BGS is therefore both being paid by industry via EAP, and advising the government on that same industry.

This clear conflict of interest has not been noted by DECC nor the BGS itself; indeed it is a structural problem within the oil and gas sector that very few geologists are independent.

The BGS is a typical example. The advisor has a vested interest in promoting hydraulic fracturing – and has a direct route via which to influence government thinking.

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