ENERGY: Shale gas gets UK go ahead

Only the crumbliest, flakiest...

A committee of politicians in the UK has given a green light to shale gas drilling in a report on potential impacts on water supplies, energy security and greenhouse gas emissions.

Shale gas is methane locked up in underground formations of shale, a flaky, brittle kind of sedimentary rock. The gas can be extracted by hydraulic fracturing, known colloquially as fracking, which has been criticised by environmental groups, which say it can lead to contamination of water supplies and leakage of gases into the atmosphere.

The committee concluded that a moratorium in the UK was not justified or necessary at present. ‘There has been a lot of hot air recently about the dangers of shale gas drilling,’ said committee chair Tim Yeo. ‘But our inquiry found no evidence to support the main concern – that UK water supplies would be put at risk.’

According to the report, shale gas could add 40 per cent to recoverable natural gas resources, mostly in China and the US.

This is good news for shale gas advocates in the US, where the safety debate has been running for some time, fuelled recently by videos of people setting fire to methane contaminated tap water. The American Chemistry Council has described shale gas as a ‘game changer’ for chemical manufacturers because of the potential it represents for low methane and ethane prices. 

PHARMACEUTICAL: J&J moves into Russian OTC market

Healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has agreed to buy the over the counter (OTC) brands of Indian pharma company J B Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals in a deal worth $260 million (£160 million). It will make the purchase through Swiss subsidiary Cilag. Under the terms of the deal, J&J will market in Russia OTC brands covering products for the treatment of coughs and colds including Rinza, Fitovit and Doktor Mom. 

CHEMICAL: DuPont restructuring

DuPont is doing some housekeeping to follow up on its successful acquisition of Danisco. The chemical giant will create two new business units: ‘industrial biosciences’ and ‘nutrition and health’. The industrial biosciences unit will swallow up Danisco’s enzymes business, Genecor, while the nutrition and health unit will combine the Danisco food ingredients activity and the existing nutrition and health business at DuPont.

CHEMICAL: Worker dies in Australia

There has been a fatality at plant in Australia belonging to agrichemical company Nufarm. There isn’t too much to go on from the company. But, according to news reports, the man involved was sprayed with phenol when the pipe he was working on burst, leading to severe chemical burns.

PHARMACEUTICAL: J&J HIV drug approval

More J&J news. The company has won US approval for its anti-HIV drug Edurant (rilpivirine). The drug – a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) – was developed at Tibotec Pharmaceuticals, which J&J bought in 2002 for $320 million. It can help patients with HIV by blocking a key protein involved in viral replication.

PHARMACEUTICAL: US approval for telaprevir

Incivek (telaprevir) from biotech Vertex has been approved in the US for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C infection.

About 3.2 million people in the US have chronic hepatitis C infection, a viral disease that causes inflammation of the liver, leading to impaired liver function or liver failure. Fewer than 50 per cent of patients respond to the current standard of care, peginterferon alfa and ribavirin taken for 48 weeks, according to the US Food and Drug Administration.

Incivek is a protease inhibitor, taken as a pill three times a day with food.

Andrew Turley

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