Background

Summary of Council decision:

Three issues were investigated, of which two were Not upheld and one was Upheld.

Ad description

A regional press ad for Ineos Group Ltd, a multinational chemicals company, seen in the Derbyshire Times in January 2017, featured a seven-page booklet which included information about the use of shale gas in the UK, titled “FRACKING [sic] What everyone should know”. The booklet included various sections, including one titled “What is fracking?” which stated “Gas is a fossil fuel, but is much less damaging to the climate and to air quality than coal or oil are”. A section titled “Why Fracking?” stated “As recognised by the Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change, gas has about half the emissions as coal and around 10% less than imported gas, so we have an environmental duty to use gas rather than coal for energy during this period”. Another section titled “Your questions answered” stated “Fracking can cause small tremors deep underground but these are very rare and too small to pose any risk to property or people”.

Issue

Nine complainants challenged whether the claims:

1. “Gas is a fossil fuel, but is much less damaging to the climate and to air quality than coal or oil are” was misleading and could be substantiated;

2. “As recognised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, gas has about half the emissions as coal and around 10% less than imported gas...” was misleading and could be substantiated; and

3. “Fracking can cause small tremors deep underground but these are very rare and too small to pose any risk to property or people....” was misleading because they believed that fracking had caused large earthquakes.

Response

1. Ineos provided a number of papers which discussed the carbon footprint of gas in comparison to coal and oil. In relation to shale gas, the papers concluded that its carbon footprint was likely to be significantly lower than the carbon footprint of coal because it emitted less carbon dioxide. The papers also discussed the benefits of using shale gas, which included mitigating global warming and air pollution.

In relation to oil, Ineos referred to the report titled "IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories: 2006" by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which included a table on emission factors. The table showed that in terms of emissions, gas emitted the least, followed by oil and then coal.

2. Ineos said that because the ad was addressed to a lay audience, they had included the word "about" in the claim to demonstrate that the emission reduction was based on an estimate. They relied on the report titled "Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change" by the IPCC. The report discussed estimates for fugitive methane emissions and recent lifecycle assessments. They concluded that specific greenhouse gases (GHG) were reduced when shifting from the current world average coal-fire power plant to a modern natural gas combined power plant using the 100-year global warming potentials.

In relation to imported gas, Ineos highlighted that the IPCC paper included the claim "The main focus of the discussion has been drilling, well completion, and gas product, but gas grids (Ryerson et al., 2013) and liquefaction (Jaramillo et al., 2007) are also important". They considered the specific reference to the Jaramillo paper (which concluded that domestic gas was 1250 lb CO2 equiv/MWh and liquefied natural gas was 1600 lb CO2 equiv/MWh) was an implicit endorsement of the benefit (in terms of emissions) of imported gas.

Ineos also referred to the "Potential greenhouse gas emissions associated with shale gas extraction and use" report by Professor David J C MacKay FRS and Dr Timothy Stone OBE. The report said that when transporting natural gas long distances, it was common practice to liquefy it which resulted in GHG emissions. The paper estimated that the carbon footprint of shale gas extraction was likely to be lower than the carbon footprint of liquefied natural gas due to its transportation process.

3. Ineos said that the Fox Creek, Alberta earthquake referred to by the complainants was an exceptional event in the area, but did not elicit any reported damage to people or property. They said that according to the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC)'s "seismic activity traffic light monitoring system"; the earthquake would not be classified as a "large earthquake".

Ineos said that there was a different regime in the United Kingdom, which included gathering 3D seismic data to identify faults in the rock when drilling and fracking, monitoring background seismicity before operations commenced, seismic monitoring in real time whilst a fracking operation was undertaken, and halting the operation if a tremor as low as magnitude 0.5 was detected.

Assessment

1. Not upheld

The ASA noted that the claims were featured within an information booklet which aimed to provide key details about fracking, but which was clearly produced by "Ineos Shale". We considered that in the context of an information booklet, the claim "Gas is a fossil fuel, but is much less damaging to the climate and to air quality than coal or oil are" was likely to be understood as a factual statement about the total reduced impact of gas to the climate and air quality in comparison to coal and oil.

We acknowledged that Ineos had provided supporting evidence from a number of bodies, most notably the IPCC, the international body for assessing the science related to climate change. That evidence demonstrated support for the view that gas emitted less carbon dioxide than coal or oil when burnt because natural gas contained less carbon than either of those substances. We understood that natural gas was composed primarily of methane, a GHG, and that there was a degree of uncertainty regarding the potential environmental impact of methane leaks during natural gas production ("fugitive emissions"). However, we noted that the IPCC report "Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change" stated "a better appreciation of the importance of fugitive emissions in fuel chains … has resulted in a downward adjustment of the estimated benefit from fuel switching". But even after taking into account that downward adjustment, GHG emissions were reduced by half when shifting from the current world average coal-fired power plant to a modern natural gas combined-cycle (NGCC) power plant.

In relation to oil, we noted that the emission factors in the "IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories: 2006" indicated that natural gas produced more than 10% less carbon dioxide than crude oil, and that its emission factor for methane was also lower.

Whilst we understood from information provided by the complainant that there was debate regarding the IPCC's methodology, we nevertheless considered that because the evidence provided indicated that natural gas was responsible for significantly less GHG emissions than coal or oil, even when estimates of "fugitive leaks" were taken into account, we concluded that the claim was not misleading.

On this point we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules  3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.  (Misleading advertising) and  3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation.  (Substantiation), but did not find it breach.

2. Upheld

We considered that consumers would understand the claim "as recognised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, gas has about half the emissions as coal and around 10% less than imported gas" to mean that the IPCC endorsed the view that gas had approximately half the amount of GHG emissions (including fugitive emissions) as coal and 10% less than the amount of imported gas.

As noted above, the IPCC paper titled "Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change - chapter 7" reported that "specific GHG emissions are reduced by one half …" and that the reduction was based on "the lower carbon content of natural gas (15.3 gC/MJ compared to, e.g. 22.2 gC/MJ for sub-bituminous coal)". We noted that the paper acknowledged that the amount of emissions was dependant on "natural gas upstream emissions" and factors such as whether low emission practices were mandated and how they were implemented, and that it stated "more modest emissions reductions result when shifting from current average coal plants to the best available coal technology or less-advanced gas power plants". While we noted that the claim included the word "about" which suggested to readers that the emissions figure was an estimate, we considered that the claim in the ad did not make clear that the emission reductions could only be achieved under the circumstances set out above.

We also noted that the second element of the claim "10% less than imported gas" was based on a different report published by Professor David J C MacKay FRS and Dr Timothy Stone OBE. We noted that the IPCC paper made reference to imported gas but did not explicitly discuss it as having 10% less emissions than domestic gas. We considered that the way Ineos’ claim was worded implied that the claimed benefit compared to imported gas had been recognised in full by the IPCC.

Because the IPCC paper qualified its conclusion that gas had approximately half the amount of emissions as coal and did not discuss imported gas' emissions benefit in comparison to domestic gas, we concluded that the claim was misleading.

On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules  3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.  Misleading advertising) and  3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation.  (Substantiation).

3. Not upheld

We considered that consumers would interpret the claim "Fracking can cause small tremors deep underground but these are very rare and too small to pose any risk to property or people ..." to mean that tremors were a possible consequence of fracking in the UK, but that they were uncommon and, because they occurred deep underground, that they were too small to cause damage.

We understood that the complainants had provided two examples of earthquakes. The first was in Fox Creek, Alberta, which had a magnitude of 4.8. In accordance with the DECC's "traffic light monitoring system", we noted that a 4.8 magnitude was classified between a minor and light earthquake which could be felt by humans and may cause some property damage. The second example was in Blackpool in 2011. The earthquake was recorded on the Richter scale with a magnitude of 2.3. We noted that it was classified as "minor- felt slightly by some people. No damage to buildings".

While we acknowledged that the examples demonstrated the occurrence of earthquakes as a result of fracking, we noted that one example occurred inCanada which had a different regime to the UK. We noted that the proposed DECC's "traffic light monitoring system" published in 2013 in the UK included a number of proactive measures which included stopping a fracking operation if a tremor as low as magnitude 0.5 (which did not pose a risk to property or people) was detected and that the Blackpool earthquake of 2011 was not on a scale which could cause damage to people or property. Based on that information, we considered that because the monitoring and regulation system in the UK was designed to detect small seismic activity and to stop operations in the event of such activity, the claim was not misleading.

On that point we investigated under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules  3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.  and  3.6 3.6 Subjective claims must not mislead the consumer; marketing communications must not imply that expressions of opinion are objective claims.  (Misleading advertising) and  3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation.  (Substantiation), but did not find it in breach.

Action

The claims must not appear again in their current form. We told Ineos Upstream Limted to ensure that they held robust documentary evidence in support of claims likely to be regarded as objective and that were capable of objective substantiation.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

3.1     3.6     3.7    


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