Rathlin Energy is submitting initial drilling plans this week for its second exploration well at West Newton in East Yorkshire. A full planning application is expected to be sent to East Riding Council before Christmas.
The proposed well, described at an exhibition for local people on Saturday, is at Crooks Lane, under 1km from West Newton village. Burton Constable Hall, an Elizabeth country house set in grounds designed by Capability Brown, is nearly 2km to the west.
If approved, this would be Rathlin’s third well in East Yorkshire. The first West Newton well – West Newton 1 – is 2km north west of the proposed site. That well has been suspended after the rig left just over a week ago. Our report The company has also drilled at Crawberry Hill, near Beverley, and last month received an extension to its planning permission to allow it to test that well. Our report
The proposed exploration site, which Rathlin calls West Newton B, would cover 1.25ha. The land is owned by Norman Caley Ltd and the nearest properties are about 350m and 500m away.
If permission is granted, Rathlin says it will not frack at West Newton B. The plan is to drill to a depth of 2,100m to explore for gas, and possibly oil, in Permian age rocks. The company says it will not drill into the Bowland shale, which, it says, lies at more than 2,900m. The planning application, when submitted, will be for a three year period and cover drilling, flaring, testing and restoration. Drilling is predicted to take between six and 12 weeks and the extended well test up to 13 weeks.
An exhibition of the plans at Aldbrough Village Hall, attracted 135 people, Rathlin said. This is just over 1% of the 9,000 people invited from villages in the Holderness area. According to Rathlin, most people who attended were from Ellerby, Aldbrough, Withernwick and Burton Constable. The event was open only to residents of the Holderness area and people who wanted to attend had to pre-register and bring identification. More than 20 of the Rathlin’s staff and contractors attended the event, including the company chairman, David Montagu-Smith.
Numbers lower than expected
A Rathlin spokesman said: “Numbers were lower than we had anticipated but it gave the team a good chance to speak to everyone who turned up. Most people were very pleasant. Most people I spoke to said that they had had all of their questions answered.”
The company argues that the effects of the rig on local people will be limited because it is temporary and will be screened by hedgerows, woodland and tree cover.
But Harry Clark, from New Ellerby, said: “It is just creeping industrialisation of the area – we didn’t move here to live in the middle of an industrial area.”
Jeanette Rowe wrote on Facebook: “I attended their meeting today. I asked a lot of questions, some they answered and a couple they couldn’t. They don’t fool me, didn’t see any of our councillors there as I was told they attended yesterday. Before I left one of their representatives asked me how I felt and had I changed my mind about Rathlin, I said no I hadn’t changed my mind and then walked out.”
Resident “distraught and upset”
Another resident said: “I left the session after 2.5 hours distraught and upset. Rathlin’s new Well Site is even closer to my home [than West Newton 1]. I will get a panoramic view from all the windows at the front of my house. After talking to Rathlin’s staff (who all thought I would be delighted at having another oil drilling site nearby) they did not fill me with any confidence in their working operations.”
The resident said: “I spoke with Mr Montague Smith for at least 45 minutes and I let him know my feelings. He told me that Rathlin had organized a previous meeting for the press and local estate agents. I told him that he was ignorant to invite all and sundry first before the residents of West Newton who will be most affected by this and I felt like riff raff or dross. I got the usual corporate mumbling reply.”
West Newton 1 operation
Rathlin’s spokesman said there had been a few comments about West Newton 1. That operation has attracted criticism, about noxious smells, working practices, the convoy used to deliver equipment and allegations of a lack of transparency. Rathlin rebuts these complaints on its website (see final page of presentation).
The spokesman said the exhibition had gone well and there had been good feedback, which he said would “form part of the company’s thinking when submitting applications to statutory organisations in the future.”
Pre-screening plans to be submitted
He said: “A pre-screening application will be submitted to East Riding of Yorkshire Council this week and the full planning application before Christmas.” He added that new people and parish councils would be invited to join the company’s existing liaison group.
Rathlin said it expected to spend several million pounds on the new well, though it will not give the exact cost of the work. Over the past three years, the company said it had spent £7.5m in East Yorkshire on drilling and completing the wells at West Newton and Crawberry Hill, hotel and restaurant costs, offices, local contractors, meeting rooms, the seismic programme, security and donations to charity.
Frack Free East Yorkshire Information Day [updated on 26/11/14]
Frack Free East Yorkshire ran a separate information day in Aldbrough on the same day as Rathlin. Pippa King, one of the organisers, said between 70 and 80 people attended this event. The key issues raised by people were concerns about traffic, water contamination and the industrialisation of the countryside, she said.
“There had been really positive reactions to the campaign”, she said, though she acknowledged that no one who was in favour of drilling attended the event.
“Quite a lot of people came back to our information day, having visited the Rathlin Energy event”.
Ms Kiing said Rathlin’s activities had started to bring communities in different villages together. “The villages are more like hamlets in this part of East Yorkshire”, she said. “They have never needed to come together before but now this issue is affecting all of them”.
She added that there was increasing interest from people aged 50+. “We’ve found that grandmothers are very effective campaigners”, she said.