Today’s occupation of West Burton power station is part of a growing UK movement opposing new gas-based electricity.
And as well as the 20 new gas-fired power stations planned, the government is similarly committed to fueling these stations with gas drilled within UK borders, often using technologies based on hydraulic fracturing.
The production of these fuel supplies is well under way. The most advanced UK site is at Airth in Scotland which will produce gas equivalent to run the occupied West Burton power station – one fortieth of total UK gas generation – for just one year.
At Airth the company responsible, Australian driller Dart Energy, plans to dump the millions of gallons of waster waters produced into the nearby Firth of Forth. Airth is a Coal Bed Methane operation, whereby gas is extracted from layers of coal using techniques similar to fracking.
Several thousand similar well bores are planned across the country. The very first of these – by Lancashire fracker Cuadrilla – caused earthquakes. In Australia Coal Bed Methane has aroused widespread public antipathy due to its impact on local aquifers.
The government intends that these new gas wells feed the new generation of gas-fired power stations that are the target of today’s protesters.
Indeed, the occupied power station sits in an area licensed to several gas drilling companies. Dart Energy has the license to drill for coal bed methane close to West Burton; while Egdon Resources and Star Energy are planning to drill for shale gas nearby (the difference is principally the depth at which they are exploring and then – they hope – producing gas). Future production from these gas fields would likely lead to the West Burton plant.
The government and its spokespeople like to distance themselves from associated the new generation of gas plants with the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing. In reality the relation is symbiotic: more gas stations mean more gas demand. And as gas prices world wide spiral, what better way than to source it within our own borders, the consequences be damned.