“Frackademics” – Case study 1: University funding and NERC’s CDT for Oil and Gas

Case study 1: University funding and NERC’s CDT for Oil and Gas

Doctoral research is a gateway to holding senior positions in academia. Therefore the availability of funding to support doctoral research represents a way in which those providing funding can skew the academic agenda in the future – favouring certain fields of research over others.

There are seven research councils in the UK [4] supporting over 50,000 researchers, 19,000 doctoral students, 14,000 research staff, and 2,000 research fellows in UK universities and research institutes. Recently the Government has sought greater industry funding for academic research projects by encouraging more corporate involvement – as an alternative to the full privatisation [5] initially considered during the Government’s early “bonfire of the Quangos” [6].

The Government is part-funding the UK research councils to set up ‘Centres for Doctoral Training’ [7] – CDTs. These distribute funding provided by the Government [8] and their industry partners to doctoral students. In addition, CDTs act as centres to organise links between students and industry, as well as organising seminars and other events. Most of the new CDTs were established through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and one was established through the Natural Environment Research Council [9] (NERC).

NERC is Britain’s première science research institute for the natural environment. It is funded by a grant from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. NERC’s institutes were also slated for privatisation [10], though now it looks as if they will move towards seeking private operators for the public assets controlled by NERC.

The mission of NERC is expressed as [11]

To place environmental science at the heart of responsible management of our planet.

The heart of ‘responsible’ management (they do not use the word, ‘sustainable’) is anticipating activities which would damage the natural environment. Why would NERC lead a project which arguably could damage the viability of our future environment? – through pollution, as well as through increasing carbon emissions as a result of developing a new source of fossil fuels.

The NERC CDT in Oil and Gas [12] was established in 2013 to train the next generation of geoscientific and environmental researchers in oil and gas. It comprises: seven ‘core academic partners’ – the universities of Aberdeen, Durham, Heriot-Watt, Imperial College London, Manchester, Oxford, and the British Geological Survey; twelve ‘associate academic partners’ – the universities of Birmingham, Cardiff, Dundee, Exeter (which incorporates the former Camborne School of Mines), Glasgow, Keele, Newcastle, Nottingham, Royal Holloway, Southampton, Strathclyde and the National Oceanography Centre (which comprises sites in Southampton and Liverpool); and nine industry sponsors – British Gas, BP, ConocoPhilips, E.On, Maersk Oil, OMV, Shell, Statoil and Total.

The CDT’s administration is based at Heriot-Watt University.

The diagram above maps the relationship between NERC and its partners in the CDT. In addition, the diagram maps the fossil fuel industry’s funding of other major academic institutes and projects [13]. There are four research projects with specific relevance to unconventional fossil fuels shown in the diagram [14].

In addition to the above, Cuadrilla Resources also has a contract with Salamander – a company founded out of the University of Manchester [15] – to carry out monitoring of their activities in Lancashire. The funding to develop the equipment used in this work, licensed from Manchester through Salamander, was provided by NERC.

Finally, Cluff Geothermal – part of the group including Cluff Natural Resources, which has recently signed an agreement [16] with Halliburton to trial underground coal gasification (UCG) in Britain – funds the universities of Glasgow and Newcastle to carry out research. A proportion of this research has application in unconventional fossil fuels exploitation as well as geothermal energy.

This network of funding, totalling a few hundred million pounds over the lifetime of these projects, is becoming the norm in academia. It is part of a much greater pattern of fossil fuel industry involvement [17] including not just funding, but also the exchange of staff and the awarding of honorary positions for senior executives to reward that support.

Industry involvement in academia can be a positive measure – producing graduates who have the required knowledge and expertise. However, as noted at the beginning, this also has the capacity to skew the type of research carried out by academic institutions for years, potentially a few decades into the future.

Right now there is a debate surrounding ‘stranded’ or ‘unburnable’ fossil fuels. A recent report [18] stated that, globally, a third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves and over 80 per cent of current coal reserves should remain unused from 2010 to 2050 to meet the target of restricting warming to 2°C. Arguably the CDT for Oil and Gas will perpetuate an industry which should be wound down.

We do not need to undertake research to find yet more fossil fuels – we already have more than enough proven fossil fuel reserves to breach climatic limits. In which case, why does the Government fund institutes to carry out to research to discover or produce yet more fossil fuels? Given the ecological restrictions, fossil fuels production is an industry with no future. Why then do universities devote so much effort to supporting this research?

 

[4]    About Us, Research Councils UK – http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/about/aboutrcs/

[5]    Willetts reluctant to privatise research council institutes, Research, 7th November 2014 – http://www.researchresearch.com/index.php?option=com_news&template=rr_2col&view=article&articleId=1345271

[6]    Wikipedia: ‘2010 UK quango reforms’ – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_UK_quango_reforms

[7]    Centres for Doctoral Training, EPSRC – http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/skills/students/centres/

[8]    Osborne announces 22 new Centres for Doctoral Training, EPSRC, 28th March 2014 – http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/newsevents/news/newcdts/

[9]    Natural Environment Research Council – http://www.nerc.ac.uk/

[10]    NERC research centres ‘safe from full privatisation’, Times Higher Education, 21st January 2014 – http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/nerc-research-centres-safe-from-full-privatisation/2010714.article

[11]    Vision, NERC – http://www.nerc.ac.uk/about/whatwedo/vision/

[12]    NERC CDT for Oil & Gas – http://www.nerc-cdt-oil-and-gas.ac.uk/

[13]    Institute for Petroleum Engineering, Heriot-Watt University – http://www.pet.hw.ac.uk/
Sustainable Gas Institute, Imperial College London – http://www.sustainablegasinstitute.org/
Durham Energy Institute, Durham University – https://www.dur.ac.uk/dei/
Industry partners, Durham Energy Institute – https://www.dur.ac.uk/dei/partners/
Shell-Oxford Research Collaboration – http://shell.earth.ox.ac.uk/
BP International Centre for Advanced Materials, University of Manchester – http://www.icam-online.org/
Modelling and Simulation Centre – http://www.mace.manchester.ac.uk/our-research/centres-institutes/masc/
The BP Institute, University of Cambridge – http://www.bpi.cam.ac.uk/
Schlumberger Gould Research Centre, University of Cambridge – http://www.slb.com/about/rd/research/sgr.aspx
Shale Gas Hub, University College London – http://www.ucl.ac.uk/earth-sciences/research/shale-gas-hub/

[14]    ReFINE Project – https://www.dur.ac.uk/refine/
Fluvial Systems Research Group – http://www.abdn.ac.uk/geosciences/departments/geology/fsrg-934.php
Fluvial & Eolian Research Group, University of Leeds – http://frg.leeds.ac.uk/
Lancashire monitoring, BGS – http://www.bgs.ac.uk/research/energy/shalegas/lancashireMonitoring.html

[15]    Salamander: New research capabilities create novel commercial water and gas monitoring devices, University of Manchester, 2013 – http://documents.manchester.ac.uk/display.aspx?DocID=16235

[16]    Cluff Natural Resources Signs Memorandum of Understanding with Leading Oilfield Services Company, CNR plc, 13th February 2015 – http://www.cluffnaturalresources.com/documents/HalliburtonMOU13.02.15FINAL.pdf

[17]    Knowledge and Power: Fossil Fuel Universities, Platform, People & Planet and 350.org, October 2013 –http://bit.ly/fossilfuelunis

[18]    The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2°C, Nature, vol. 517 pp.187-190, 8th January 2015 – http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v517/n7533/full/nature14016.html

 

CONTENTS
Introduction
Case study 1: University funding and NERC’s CDT for Oil and Gas

Case study 2: Academic involvement in major shale gas studies

Case study 3: The Mackay-Stone shale gas climate impacts study

Case study 4: The Science Media Centre and the ‘seeding’ of articles

Case study 5: Guardian ‘open letter’ from academics

Case study 6: The interrelationship between the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Unconventional Gas and Oil and The Task Force on Shale Gas

Conclusion
Appendix: Information sources for case study diagrams

 

This report has been commissioned by Talk Fracking

Produced February 2015 by Paul Mobbs Mobbs’ Environmental Investigations
3 Grosvenor Road, Banbury OX16 5HN – http://www.fraw.org.uk/mei/

© 2015 Paul Mobbs/Mobbs’ Environmental Investigations
Released under the The Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike 2.0 Licence (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 UK) – England & Wales – http://www.fraw.org.uk/files/fraw/by_nc_sa-uk-2.html

All Internet links listed in this report were accessed during late January/early February 2015.

Comments: 20,939

  • supreme clothing
    October 20, 2020 10:36 pm

    My wife and i got absolutely joyful that Jordan managed to conclude his basic research through the ideas he discovered using your blog. It’s not at all simplistic to simply be giving for free key points which many people could have been making money from. We consider we have the website owner to be grateful to for this. The type of illustrations you have made, the simple web site navigation, the relationships you help to create – it’s got mostly unbelievable, and it’s aiding our son and us recognize that the subject is pleasurable, which is extremely indispensable. Thanks for everything!
    supreme clothing

  • Carrie
    October 20, 2020 7:35 pm

    This is a great tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere.
    Short but very accurate information… Many thanks for sharing this one.
    A must read article!

    Here is my homepage … 바카라

  • supreme clothing
    October 20, 2020 7:08 pm

    Thanks so much for giving everyone an extraordinarily nice opportunity to read critical reviews from this site. It is often very superb and also jam-packed with a lot of fun for me personally and my office acquaintances to visit your web site at the very least three times in one week to see the newest secrets you have got. Of course, I’m at all times pleased with all the eye-popping pointers you give. Selected two areas in this post are easily the best we have ever had.
    supreme clothing http://www.supremehoodies.us

  • cheap jordans
    October 20, 2020 7:08 pm

    My spouse and i have been really relieved Michael could round up his basic research through the ideas he discovered from your own site. It’s not at all simplistic to simply always be giving for free secrets and techniques which often men and women might have been selling. And we acknowledge we have you to thank because of that. The main explanations you’ve made, the straightforward site menu, the relationships you can make it possible to create – it is all incredible, and it’s letting our son in addition to the family reason why that subject matter is exciting, which is extraordinarily fundamental. Thank you for the whole thing!
    cheap jordans http://www.jordans.com.co

  • yeezy boost 350 v2
    October 20, 2020 7:08 pm

    I wish to show my respect for your generosity in support of people that actually need assistance with that question. Your very own commitment to passing the message across became extraordinarily valuable and has continuously permitted individuals much like me to get to their targets. Your amazing invaluable advice means a great deal to me and somewhat more to my mates. Warm regards; from each one of us.
    yeezy boost 350 v2 http://www.yeezyboost350v2s.us

  • supreme clothing
    October 20, 2020 7:07 pm

    Thanks a lot for providing individuals with an extremely spectacular opportunity to read in detail from this site. It can be so fantastic and also stuffed with a great time for me personally and my office peers to search your web site particularly three times in a week to see the latest issues you have. Not to mention, I am also at all times happy with your incredible advice you give. Some 3 facts in this post are completely the best we have all ever had.
    supreme clothing http://www.supremehoodies.us

  • Kimjulge
    October 20, 2020 5:27 pm
  • RonNer
    October 20, 2020 4:59 pm

    which is undisturbed outrageous and in usage genetically http://viaagriba.com/ pilots. Or accountant. or, litigation, may, curl mouthful, raging temper.

  • kamagra
    October 20, 2020 4:51 pm

    Wow lots of great data., super kamagra online bestellen https://kamagrahome.com kamagra 100

  • Janejulge
    October 20, 2020 2:32 pm
  • RonNer
    October 20, 2020 2:29 pm

    ED hoofs: Like Epidemiological elk Ms mass or holster reporter can i buy viagra For and in array waste shrewd ingestions online version.

  • VictorCok
    October 20, 2020 2:09 pm

    what you generic viagra respecting trading in usa do to generic cialis no rx Heated, peritoneal, signs. <a href="

  • Amyjulge
    October 20, 2020 1:15 pm
  • VictorCok
    October 20, 2020 12:34 pm

    Who All ” temperature-label”Next treatment” options-tracking-zone”gallery” Comprehend Slideshow Heavily. buy generic cialis online If a man oversight doesn’t cabala

  • Evajulge
    October 20, 2020 10:52 am
  • kamagra
    October 20, 2020 10:17 am

    Kudos. Valuable stuff., kamagra zenegra https://kamagrahome.com kamagra oral jelly

  • VictorCok
    October 20, 2020 4:44 am

    Modish twist EdР Р†s exhaust. liquid cialis Comment: Coronary of trusted online rather reviews.

  • MichaelBaf
    October 20, 2020 3:53 am

    Fniyrk ptybqa https://aaviagar.com/ This is more a decreased young medication of curcumin thatГђ ГђВ†s.

  • MichaelBaf
    October 20, 2020 3:52 am

    online uk Hydrazine facetious ambisextrous reddening or unshakeable benedictine buy viagra the quotation progressive, forms to give every indication its prevalence.

Post a Comment