Cookies policy statement
We are using cookies on our site to provide you with the best user experience.
Disabling cookies may prevent our website from working efficiently. Click ok to remove this message (we will remember your choice).
OK

ASA Adjudication on Cuadrilla Resources Ltd

Cuadrilla Resources Ltd

Stowe Court
Stowe Street
Lichfield
Staffordshire
WS13 6AQ

Date:

24 April 2013

Media:

Brochure

Sector:

Industrial and engineering

Number of complaints:

1

Agency:

PPS Group

Complaint Ref:

A12-203806

Background

Summary of Council decision: 18 issues were investigated, of which 11 were Not Upheld, 6 were Upheld and one was Upheld in part.

Ad

A brochure for Cuadrilla Resources, an energy company, was titled "Summer 2012 Exploring For Natural Gas Cuadrilla Resources is exploring for natural gas in Lancashire" and contained a number of claims.

Issue

Refracktion.com, a pressure group of local residents, challenged whether the following claims were misleading and could be substantiated:

1. "Cuadrilla uses proven, safe technologies to explore for and recover natural gas" and "Hydraulic fracturing can be done safely".

2. "All our work is highly regulated by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the Environment Agency (EA), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Lancashire County Council" and "Cuadrilla must meet the same stringent regulations which govern all onshore natural gas and oil exploration".

3. "[T]here have been a number of important independent scientific studies carried out, examining hydraulic fracturing. These reports have agreed that hydraulic fracturing can be done safely, given appropriate guidelines and monitoring".

4. "The Geomechanical Study of the Bowlands Shale Seismicity confirms that there is little risk of future seismic events recurring in the Bowland Basin"

5. "The Government's own review, published in April 2012, also concluded that it was safe to resume hydraulic fracturing [in the Bowland Basin].

6. "[The report] too set out safeguards to help ensure that there will be minimal seismic activity and no prospect of any resulting damage".

7. "This data will allow us to adjust the injection volume and rate during the fracturing procedure, managing the process to ensure that no one should notice any disturbance or even be aware of the activity".

8. "Cuadrilla's wells are all designed to best practice standards and are inspected by an independent well examiner before being sent to the HSE for review".

9. To ensure that there can be no route for fluid or gas to leak from the shale rock up to the aquifer, we use multiple layers of steel casing sealed by cement".

10. "We also know that hydraulic fracturing does not lead to contamination of the underground aquifer" and "There is 'no evidence of aquifer contamination from hydraulic fracturing'".

11. "Cuadrilla's fracturing fluid does not contain hazardous or toxic components".

12. "Geophysical Survey of the Fylde ... Why have we done this? The information that we have gathered is essential to help us understand the quantities of natural gas in the rock beneath the Fylde and how much it may be possible to extract in the future".

13. "The survey [Geophysical Survey of the Fylde] also contributed around £1.5 million to the local economy through salaries and local expenditure".

14. "Some critics have suggested that the area would be blighted by densely packed, unattractive developments in the future, if we moved to production stage. This would not be the case".

15. "Our permanent site at Elswick has been quietly producing natural gas since 1993. Located just off the main road in to Elswick ... The Elswick well was hydraulically fractured in 1993 and extracts gas from the sandstone formation".

16. "A study published in September 2011 concluded that Cuadrilla's production operations could create 5,600 jobs in the UK with around 1,700 of these jobs being created in Lancashire. The production phase, if entered, is likely to last many decades, creating long term employment opportunities".

17. "As an untapped energy source, natural gas from shale has the potential to boost the UK's gas production, reduce the UK's dependency on expensive and unreliable foreign energy sources and could constrain gas prices".

18. "It should also act as a transitional fuel allowing time for Government and industry to develop renewable sources more effectively".

CAP Code (Edition 12)

Response

1. Cuadrilla Resources Ltd (CRL) explained that the technologies they used have been in use for many decades and are regarded as safe by regulators worldwide, with each subject to established safety standards determined by official regulations. Before and during exploration the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the Environment Agency (EA), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Lancashire County Council (LCC) authorised and monitored the process. CRL said it was implicit in each such authorisation that they had to conduct their operations in a safe way; such authorisation would be either suspended or withdrawn if it did not.

CRL said the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering were asked by the UK Government's Chief Scientific Adviser to carry out an independent review of scientific and engineering evidence related to the technical aspects of the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing drawn from worldwide standard best practice in order to inform government policymaking about shale gas extraction in the UK. The report ('Shale gas extraction in the UK: a review of hydraulic fracturing' July 2012) concluded that the health, safety and environmental risks associated with fracking could be managed effectively in the UK, as long as operational best practices were implemented and enforced through regulation.

CRL said the fact that CRL had not had the opportunity to conduct operations using the report's recommendations did not mean that the methods themselves were in doubt. They believed the report and the regulations in place supported the claims "Cuadrilla uses proven, safe technologies to explore for and recover natural gas" and "Hydraulic fracturing can be done safely".

2. CRL said they held a Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence and DECC regulated their operations under the Petroleum Act 1988. They needed planning permission from LCC for their operations and the planning permission process covered areas such as safeguarding of watercourses and drainage, hours of work, noise, traffic management and measures to mitigate the impact of the works on the environment, which had to be satisfied before permission would be granted.

CRL said the HSE had the right to make inspections and, where appropriate, the powers to prosecute operators for deficiencies in health and safety. The HSE had responsibilities under the Offshore Installations and Wells (Design and Construction, etc.) Regulations 1996 and the Borehole Sites and Operations Regulations 1995.

CRL explained that the EA closely monitored their operations and had made 16 visits to their Preese Hall site alone between March 2011 and August 2012. The HSE had carried out independent assessments and sampling, with some of the site visits arranged with little notice.

3. CRL said several scientific reports have either agreed that hydraulic fracturing could be done safely, or, examining specific aspects of fracturing operations, had found that their risks could be mitigated to such a degree that they could be considered safe. They provided the ASA with three reports.

4. CRL said, following earth tremors in the Bowland Basin in April and May 2011, they voluntarily suspended hydraulic fracturing operations while an independent scientific report was commissioned to look in detail at the events. They said the report 'The Geomechanical Study of the Bowland Shale Seismicity', concluded that a number of factors had coincided to induce the seismatic events, which were unusual for stimulation treatments and since the chances for any single factor to occur was small, the combined probability of a repeat occurrence of a fracture induced seismic event with similar magnitude was quite low.

5. CRL provided the ASA with the Government's review, 'Preese Hall Shale Gas Fracturing: Review and Recommendations for Induced Seismic Mitigation'. They said the claim summarised the review's findings, which they believed showed there was no evidence that hydraulic fracturing in the Bowland Basin would cause a safety issue, whether an injury to a member of the public or a member of the fracturing crew, or seismic damage. CRL said the review had recommended monitoring of seismic activity to minimise the possibility of further felt tremors with a maximum magnitude of 0.5 ML for cessation of operations, which CRL intended to adopt. They said a magnitude of 0.5 ML would not cause any structural damage.

6. CRL said the report clearly set out safeguards, which was reflected in the claim. They believed that the results of such safeguards would be minimal seismic activity with no prospect of any resulting damage.

7. CRL said the claim referred to the data in 'The Geomechanical Study of the Bowland Shale Seismicity', which had suggested that larger injection volumes tended to yield stronger seismic events. They said they had used that data to adjust the injection volume. They believed that any seismic events associated with fracking would be so small as not to be noticed by humans unassisted by seismometers. They also pointed out that they would cease operations if seismic events reached the maximum threshold of 0.5 ML, which they said would not be noticed.

8. CRL explained that they had drilled wells known as Preese Hall, Becconsall and Grange Hill. They maintained that each well was designed to internationally recognised best practice standards and the designs of their wells were available on their website. They said they were subject to the Offshore Installations and Wells (Design and Construction, etc.) Regulations 1996, which also applied to onshore wells, and the HSE Guidance on the Regulations. The Regulations required wells to be examined by an independent well examiner. All CRL's wells had been inspected by an independent well examiner.

9. CRL explained that they installed three layers of steel casing and cement, isolated any aquifer from the well bore and the cavity between each layer of steel casing was fully sealed with cement. A third party specialist engineered the cement design used for all casings. The process insured the correct composition, strength and density of the cement before any cementing was carried out. Samples of the cement being pumped were taken at regular intervals to confirm that the cement had cured before the casing and cement were pressure tested ahead of drilling the next section of the well.

10. CRL said poor well design and/or construction could result in aquifer contamination, but there was no evidence to show that hydraulic fracturing had caused contamination across overlying layers of rock to the aquifer. They acknowledged that there were a number of contrary opinions, but believed that those were not supported by suitably robust evidence, whereas scientific opinion supported their own view.

11. CRL explained that hydraulic fracturing fluid was primarily mains water with the addition of a friction reducer (FR-40) and sand. They said the sand and FR-40 were not toxic to humans. The spectraflood tracer, used to measure and evaluate fracturing-fluid clean up and flow back efficiency, was classified as an irritant to eyes and skin, but not 'harmful' or 'toxic'. All the components CRL used had been approved by the EA prior to use. They explained that the claim did not relate to what the EA had approved for CRL to add to its fracturing fluid, which included biocide or hydrochloric acid. Rather, the claim referred to the contents of the hydraulic fracturing fluids that they actually used and, although approved, to date they had not used biocide or hydrochloric acid.

12. CRL said the claim explained the reason for the survey. It was standard procedure in the oil and gas industry to engage specialists to carry out such surveys.

13. CRL provided the ASA with a breakdown of the economic contribution to the local economy. These included local wages, vehicle hire, fuel costs, equipment hire, hire of premises, accommodation and food, land access and agents' fees, which they maintained was higher than the figure quoted in the brochure.

14. CRL said that no definitive plans had been drawn up as to whether CRL would move to development and production stage. If it were to proceed it could entail in the order of 10–20 development pads across the 1200-km2 area of the licence, with each pad approximately the size of a football pitch. They argued that the size and number of wells would be considerably less than some sites in the US, which were often cited by opponents to hydraulic fracturing operations. They maintained that field development in the UK did not mean populating the countryside with new drilling locations. Horizontal wells could radiate from the same well bore like the tines of a fork and in several directions, which could be repeated at different levels. One pad could manage 24–36 horizontal wells using present-day technology.

CRL said judging what would be "densely packed" was a matter of opinion and a subjective issue. They had used the term density to mean the number of sites per unit of area. They said, as the licensed operator, they were responsible for proposing the development, which they did not intend to be densely packed. They said the level of attractiveness was not capable of objective substantiation.

15. CRL said the Elswick well had been in production since 1993 and provided evidence to support the claim. Although that site was vertically fracked, they maintained there were no material differences and only immaterial technical variations between this and the proposed method of horizontal fracking. The claim had been made to reassure residents that the proposed techniques were similar.

16. CRL said the study 'Economic Impact of Shale Gas Exploration & Production in Lancashire and the UK', described three potential scenarios – high-end, low-end and median – for shale gas production in the UK. It estimated that, at a Lancashire level, the full-time employment impact peaked at 1,700 jobs in the median case. CRL pointed out that while the report stated that the number of jobs provided would fluctuate depending on the particular state of operations at a particular time, it nonetheless made clear that 'ongoing maintenance' requirements would last for the duration of the development, which the study had suggested could last at least 25 years.

17. & 18. CRL argued that the claims were based on a matter of public record. They referenced latest examples, such as the Institute of Directors (IoD) report 'Britain's shale gas potential', published in September 2012, and the assertion by the Secretary of State for Energy that there would be no "unthinking abandonment" of fossil fuels.

Assessment

1. Upheld in part

The ASA understood that the hydraulic fracturing methods used by CRL to explore for and to recover natural gas were generally well established and used throughout the world. We acknowledged that concerns had been raised over safety issues, such as contamination of groundwater reserves and seismic events and that there had been reported safety issues at some sites around the world.

We noted the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering report on shale gas extraction in the UK attempted to address some of those safety concerns, especially in response to the earth tremors following hydraulic fracturing operations at Preese Hall (near Blackpool). It considered that any uncertainties might be addressed through robust monitoring systems and research activities. The report, having looked at worldwide standard best practice, made a number of recommendations, including ensuring well integrity, potential leakages of gas, detecting groundwater contaminations, lessening induced seismicity, best practice for risk management and management of environmental risks. Nonetheless, those recommendations had not yet been fully implemented by CRL or yet had time to show tangible results and were not tried and tested. We therefore considered that the claim that CRL used "proven" safe technologies had not been substantiated.

We noted text following the claim "Hydraulic fracturing can be done safely" clearly explained that the claim was based on the findings of the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering and the Government report 'Preese Hall Shale Gas Fracturing: Review and Recommendations for Induced Seismic Mitigation', which had agreed that "given appropriate guidelines and monitoring" hydraulic fracturing could be done safely. Relevant extracts from the reports were printed on the same page of the brochure, which recommended "cautious continuation of hydraulic fracturing" and "means to extract shale gas can be managed effectively in the UK as long as operational best practices are implemented and enforced through regulation". We considered that the claim was suitably qualified, and therefore unlikely to mislead readers.

On this point, the claim ""Cuadrilla uses proven, safe technologies to explore for and recover natural gas" breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.11 (Exaggeration).

We investigated the claim "Hydraulic fracturing can be done safely" under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.11 (Exaggeration) but did not find it in breach.

2. Not upheld

We understood that consent to drill a well was granted in the form of a licence from DECC, but permission to begin drilling would not be granted by DECC until planning permission was obtained from the Local Planning Authority, who were likely to require an environmental impact assessment, the EA to be consulted and the HSE notified of the well design and operation plans to ensure that accident hazard risks were properly controlled. Well design verification by an independent third party was also required. Before drilling could begin an application for authorisation for any discharge had to be made to the EA, which would only be granted if there was no risk to the environment and in particular drinking water. The HSE monitored progress on the well to ensure that the operator was conducting operations as planned. We understood the process was similar for all onshore natural gas and oil exploration.

We acknowledged that some concerns had been raised by industry experts that existing regulations for consent and the monitoring of hydraulic fracturing were not sufficiently robust and the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering report made a number of recommendations to address some uncertainties. We also noted reports of occasions where some regulations had been breached, but considered that such breaches did not suggest that the industry was not regulated by the bodies mentioned in the brochure or that CRL was not required to meet those regulations. We considered that the claims would be understood to mean that CRL would comply with appropriate regulations, and be monitored on an ongoing basis by the proper regulatory bodies.

We therefore concluded that the claims "All our work is highly regulated by the Department of Energy and climate Change (DECC), the Environment Agency (EA), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Lancashire County Council" and "Cuadrilla must meet the same stringent regulations which govern all onshore natural gas and oil exploration" had been substantiated and were not misleading.

On this point, we investigated the brochure under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation), but did not find it in breach.

3. Not upheld

We noted the claim was based on the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering report and the Government Preese Hall report. The former concluded that, while it was not totally risk free, hydraulic fracturing could, with appropriate guidelines and monitoring, be done safely, and the latter recommended that CRL continue with exploration and the cautious continuation of hydraulic fracturing operations. Quotes from the reports were included on the same page, which gave context to the claim.

We considered that the claim "There have been a number of important independent scientific studies carried out, examining hydraulic fracturing. These reports have agreed that hydraulic fracturing can be done safely, given appropriate guidelines and monitoring" accurately reflected the reports' findings and which, albeit briefly, were accurately summarised on the page. We therefore concluded that the claim was unlikely to mislead readers.

On this point, we investigated the brochure under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation), but did not find it in breach.

4. Not upheld

The CRL report acknowledged subsurface engineering would always involve significant uncertainty since there was limited data of processes occurring at great depth. It concluded that a number of factors coincided to induce the earth tremors in the Bowland Basin, but the chances of a repeat occurrence of a fracture induced seismic event with similar magnitude was small.

We noted the claim "The geomechanical Study of Bowland Shale Seismicity confirms that there is little risk of future seismic events recurring in the Bowland Basin" was qualified by further text that stated "and [the report] proposes a series of measures to prevent any future noticeable seismic activity that could reach a level that might give rise to concern by local residents". It appeared on a page headed "Best practice - monitoring seismicity" and in that context, and with the additional text making clear that the report did not dismiss future earth tremors, we considered the claim had been substantiated and concluded that it was not misleading.

On this point, we investigated the brochure under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation), but did not find it in breach.

5. Upheld

Refraction.com believed the claim implied that the report had concluded that hydraulic fracturing operations generally were safe. However, we noted the paragraphs following on from the claim specifically referred to the seismic events in the Bowland Basin and we therefore considered that readers would understand the claim to be a reference to the operations in the Bowland Basin and not to fracking generally.

The DECC commissioned report stated that based on CRL's report and their own report, together with the agreement by CRL to use more sensitive fracture monitoring equipment and a DECC agreed induced seismic protocol for future operations, they saw no reason why CRL should not be allowed to proceed with their shale gas exploration activities and recommended a cautious continuation of hydraulic operations.

However, we noted the paragraph, in which the claim "The Government's own review ... also concluded that it was safe to resume hydraulic fracturing [in the Bowland basin]" appeared, continued with "It too set out safeguards ... and no prospect of any resulting damage". We considered that the two claims would be read in conjunction and together gave a misleading impression of the review's conclusions of a 'cautious continuation' of hydraulic operations.

We concluded that the claim "The Government's own review ... also concluded that it was safe to resume hydraulic fracturing [in the Bowland basin]" was an overclaim and had exaggerated the reasons why drilling was able to resume and was therefore misleading.

On this point, the brochure breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.11 (Exaggeration).

6. Upheld

As stated in issue 5 above, the 'Preese Hall Shale Gas Fracturing' report made a number of recommendations and a cautious continuation of hydraulic operations at Preese Hall. The recommendations were intended to ensure minimal seismic activity but, in the event of such incidents, it recommended a maximum magnitude of 0.5 ML for cessation of operations in order to offer a “higher margin of safety against any possibility of damage to property”. We considered that, while the recommended level was intended to minimise the risk, the report had not claimed that there would be "no prospect" of any resulting damage as claimed in the brochure.

We therefore concluded that the claim had exaggerated the report's recommendations.

On this point, the brochure breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.11 (Exaggeration).

7. Upheld

We understood CRL had adjusted the injection volume following a recommendation of "The Geomechanical Study of Bowland Shale Seismicity" report, which had concluded that the rate and injection volume during the fracturing process had an effect on the strength of any seismic events. We noted CRL's arguments that any seismic events associated with fracking would be so small as not to be noticed and would cease operations if any seismic activity reached a maximum magnitude of 0.5 ML, a level they said would not be noticeable.

However, although the report suggested that reducing the injection volume might lessen future seismic events, it had not suggested that in doing so they were unlikely to be noticed at all, as implied by the claim. We therefore considered that the claim "no one should notice any disturbance or even be aware of the activity" had misleadingly exaggerated the possible effects of reducing the injection volume.

On this point, the brochure breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.11 (Exaggeration).

8. Not upheld

We considered that the well plans provided by CRL and the Offshore Installations and Wells (Design and Construction, etc.) Regulations 1996, which also applied to onshore installations and wells, supported the claim that CRL wells were designed to best practice standards and were inspected by an independent well examiner, before review by the HSE.

We therefore considered that the claim "Cuadrilla's wells are designed to best practice standards and are inspected by an independent well examiner before being sent to the HSE for review" was not misleading.

On this point, we investigated the brochure under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation), but did not find it in breach.

9. Not upheld

We noted Refracktion.com's concern that the claim would be interpreted by readers to mean that the measures taken by CRL to prevent fluid or gas leaking from the shale up to the aquifer were entirely risk free.

However, we considered that the claim "To ensure that there can be no route for fluid or gas to leak from the shale rock up to the aquifer, we use multiple layers of steel casing sealed by cement" would be understood to explain the methods used by CRL to prevent such leakage, rather than a claim that it could not happen. Such a procedure was unlikely to be totally without accidental risk. We therefore concluded that the claim was not misleading.

On this point, we investigated the brochure under CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 3.1 (Misleading advertising), but did not find it in breach.

10. Upheld

We noted CRL said they were unaware of any evidence that hydraulic fracturing itself had caused contamination across overlying layers of rock to the aquifer. However, the evidence provided by Refracktion.com, such as a US Environmental Protection Agency report on contaminated groundwater and drinking water in Wyoming, showed that there had been a number of cases of alleged accidental aquifer contamination around the world. While those incidents were likely to have been caused by poor well design or construction, rather than the hydraulic fracturing itself, we considered readers would understand the claims to be referring to the whole process including the design and construction of wells.

We understood that scientific opinion was divided and uncertain as to whether it was possible for the fracking process to contaminate the underground aquifer without adequate safeguards in place, with scientific opinion from organisations, for example, such as The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change having differing publicised opinions.

The issues were not straightforward, but we noted the two claims were presented as fact, rather than CRL's opinion, and had given the impression that the claims were universally accepted, which we considered was not the case. We therefore concluded that the claims, "We also know that hydraulic fracturing does not lead to contamination of the underground aquifer" and "There is no evidence of aquifer contamination from hydraulic fracturing" were misleading.

On this point, the brochure breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.6 (Subjective claims), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.11 (Exaggeration).

11. Upheld

We understood that components of the hydraulic fracturing fluid did not contain hazardous or toxic components, but noted from CRL's website that other chemicals, albeit in small quantities, were also likely to be added during the drilling phase, albeit that they had not used them to date. They consisted of Biocide and Hydrochloric acid, the former likely to be classed as hazardous waste and the latter classified as toxic by the Health Protection Agency. We understood that the spectraflood tracer that would be used, although not classified as 'toxic' or 'hazardous', was classified as an irritant. We acknowledged that the claim referred to the fracturing fluid itself, but considered that consumers were likely to understand the claim to refer to all chemical components used with the fracturing fluid and the claim "Cuadrilla's fracturing fluid does not contain hazardous or toxic components" should have been qualified. Because it was not, we concluded that it gave a misleading impression of the materials used.

On this point, the brochure breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).

12. Not upheld

We noted Refracktion.com believed that the claim misleadingly implied that the survey was only commissioned in order to help CRL to understand the quantities of natural gas in the rock beneath the Fylde and how much it might be possible to extract in the future, whereas they believed that that was only one of a number of other reasons including the risks of more seismic events.

We understood that it was standard practice to carry out such surveys and the information gathered helped CRL to assess various aspects of the proposed project. Defining the quantities of natural gas was not the only reason for carrying out the survey. We considered that readers were likely to understand that there were a number of reasons for the survey and the quantity of natural gas and how to extract it was not the sole purpose.

We therefore concluded that the claim "Geophysical Survey of the Fylde ... Why have we done this? The information that we have gathered is essential to help understand the quantities of natural gas in the rock beneath the Fylde and how much it may be possible to extract in the future" was not misleading.

On this point, we investigated the brochure under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), but did not find it in breach.

13. Not upheld

We noted Refracktion.com believed the claim was misleading and that the £1.5 million could not all be considered a "contribution" to the local economy as a significant proportion would be spent on taxes, savings or could be spent elsewhere. Rather, they considered it should have been described as "expenditure incurred". However, we considered the claim would be understood by readers as referring to a total or gross figure for wages and local expenditure and not net after all possible reductions.

We noted the contribution to the local economy not only included wages, but accommodation, food, hire of premises, equipment and vehicle hire, purchase of fuel, and land and access fees in order to carry out the survey on private land. We were satisfied that the detailed breakdown provided substantiated the claim "The survey [Geophysical Survey of the Fylde] also contributed around £1.5 million to the local economy through salaries and local expenditure" and therefore concluded that it was not misleading.

On this point, we investigated the brochure under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation), but did not find it in breach.

14. Not upheld

We understood CRL's arguments that assessing what might, or might not, be considered a "densely packed" development and the level of attractiveness of the area were subjective and not capable of objective substantiation. We agreed that attractiveness was a subjective area. However, with regards to "densely packed" we considered that the claim "Some critics have suggested that the area would be blighted by densely packed unattractive developments in the future, if we moved to the production stage. This would not be the case" was presented as a negative fact that CRL was able to substantiate was not true. It was unclear that CRL was simply expressing their intentions and own opinion.

We noted Refracktion.com believed the claim was misleading because they had calculated that, in order for CRL to achieve their target, there would be approximately one well pad every square mile of the Fylde countryside excluding populated areas. However, we understood this was incorrect and there would be approximately one well pad every 23 square miles or 46 square miles depending on whether 10 or 20 well pads were constructed. We understood the well pads would be spread across the 1200-km2 area and therefore considered the claim had been substantiated and was not misleading.

On this point, we investigated the brochure under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.6 (Subjective claims) but did not find it in breach.

15. Upheld

We acknowledged that the Elswick site had been producing natural gas since 1993, but understood that the well was vertically fracked, unlike the horizontal fracking techniques proposed for the Preese Hall site. The claim implied that the outcome of fracturing at Preese Hall was likely to be similar to the experience at Elswick, but, because the fracking techniques would be different, we considered that the effect on residents could not be so easily compared. We noted CRL believed that there were no material differences between the two techniques. However, we understood horizontal fracking was a more complicated process as it involved both drilling down and drilling across the rock and that it used more fracturing fluid. We therefore concluded that the comparison of the two sites gave a misleading impression of the possible outcome.

On this point, the brochure breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising) and 3.11 (Exaggeration).

16. Not upheld

We noted Refracktion.com believed the claim implied there would be a significant number of jobs lasting many decades whereas they understood a large percentage of the jobs would last between 9 and 16 years.

We understood that the claim "A study published in September 2011 concluded that Cuadrilla's production operations could create 5,600 jobs in the UK with around 1,700 of these jobs being created in Lancashire" was based on the mid-range forecast in the report. We noted the claim was conditional, which we considered made clear that it was an estimate of the possible number of employment opportunities that might be created, and because it was based on the medium prediction was unlikely to mislead readers about the possible number of jobs created.

We noted the report was based on a 25-year forecast, whereas the claim "The production phase, if entered, is likely to last many decades, creating long term employment opportunities" implied a significantly longer period. However, as the report also stated that the operational lifetime of the well could easily be 40–50 years we considered the claim to last "many" decades had been substantiated and was not misleading.

On this point, we investigated the brochure under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.11 (Exaggeration) but did not find it in breach.

17. & 18. Not upheld

We understood from the documentation provided by CRL and Refracktion.com that scientific opinion was divided over the extent of shale gas reserves (that which can be recovered and produced economically from shale gas resources) in the UK and whether it would have a significant impact on the UK's need to import fuel and also on its use as a transitional fuel.

However, we considered that the claims "As an untapped energy source, natural gas from shale has the potential to boost the UK's gas production, reduce the UK's dependency on expensive and unreliable foreign energy sources and could constrain gas prices" and "It should also act as a transitional fuel allowing time for Government and industry to develop renewable sources more effectively" were presented as conditional rather than definitive statements. In particular, we noted the language "potential to", "could" and "should also". We considered these conditional claims would be read as CRL's opinion. On that basis, we considered the claims were unlikely to mislead readers.

On these points, we investigated the brochure under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.6 (Subjective claims), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.13 (Exaggeration) but did not find it in breach.

Action

The brochure must not appear again in its present form.

Follow Us

For ASA news, including our weekly rulings, press releases, research and reports.
 

How to comply with the rules

For advice and training on the Advertising Codes please visit the CAP website.

Make a complaint

Find out what types of ads we deal with and how to make a complaint.

Press Zone

This section is for journalists only. Here you will be able to access embargoed material, breaking news and briefing papers as well as profile details for the ASA press office.