Environmental consultant and engineer, Alan Watson, gave evidence today against Cuadrilla’s plans for fracking at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood. His evidence to the inquiry revealed secret information, missing and disputed flowback data and questions about treatment capacity.
- Cuadrilla’s secret treatment centres revealed
The inquiry heard that Cuadrilla had found two water treatment centres that would take the flowback fluid from Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood. But it had not named them, saying this was commercially confidential. Alan Watson, waste witness for Friends of the Earth, said he had identified the disposal facilities as Castle Environmental facility in Stoke-on-Trent and the FCC Environment site at Knostrop in Leeds.
- 65% of waste treatment capacity
Cuadrilla has estimated the proposed fracking sites would need 65-68% of “sub-regional” waste treatment capacity. But Alan Watson said the two identified waste treatment centres were not in north west England or “sub-regional”. The proposed site at Stoke was smaller than Leeds and Cuadrilla would probably have to rely on Leeds to dispose of most of its waste.
- Unacceptable use of waste treatment
Alan Watson said it was unacceptable to tie up such a high proportion of strategic infrastructure on the exploratory wells. “Even if you were promoting shale gas you would not take up all the treatment capacity with one exploratory rig. You would treat the waste on-site and leave the strategic capacity for other industries.”
- Too much waste and too high concentrations?
Alan Watson said the level of radioactivity in the waste from the proposed fracking sites was likely to exceed that allowed at the Stoke waste facility. The level of lead might exceed the limit for the Leeds centre, particularly because other customers were using it. This could mean the centres would not be able to take the Cuadrilla waste.
- Build up of waste?
Mr Watson said if this happened, waste would build up on the sites, result in more lorry movements, more visual impacts and a greater risk of contamination to surface and ground water. The proposed coordination between the two sites would be difficult, he said. Nathalie Lieven, for Cuadrilla, said the company would have to stop work if there was no waste capacity. But Mr Watson said this would extend the duration of the projects and could have implications for seismic activity.
- Disputed flowback data
Alan Watson pointed out that Cuadrilla’s Environmental Statement estimated 21,250 cubic meters of flowback fluid for an individual site of four wells at either Preston New Road or Roseacre Wood. But the waste management plan, which was part of the environmental permit, estimated 22,000 cubic meters of flowback per well
- “Profound” increase in flowback
Mr Watson described the difference in the figures as profound. It would also make it more likely that Cuadrilla would exceed on-site storage and waste treatment capacity. Nathalie Lieven, for Cuadrilla, described the discrepancy as a typing error and said the figure for the Environmental Statement was correct. She said even if the figures meant more lorry movements, the increase would be from two a week to only ten a week. Mr Watson said: “It might not make a big difference for you in London but if you are a horse rider on these rural roads that can make a huge difference to you quality of life.”
- Missing data
The inquiry heard that the environmental permit for Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood did not show how calculations on weekly flowback had been arrived at. This prevented the public and NGOs participating in the permitting process. Nathalie Lieven, for Cuadrilla, said the Environment Agency had the figures it needed for the permit. The inquiry also heard that Cuadrilla told the Environment Agency in an email that flowback at Preese Hall had reached 70% in three months. But the email, given to Friends of the Earth in response to a Freedom of Information request redacted the data on flow back volumes.
- Flowback “not the job of planning”
Cuadrilla sought to show that flowback fluid was the responsibility of the Environment Agency and the inquiry inspector should assume the EA would do its job effectively. Nathalie Lieven, for the company, said local authorities were responsible only for onsite storage of flowback and its transport. Alan Watson said the volume and content of flowback also affected capacity at waste disposal centres, which was a planning issue.
- “Unprecedented coordination needed to reduce waste”
Alan Watson said this would require unprecedented co-ordination between the proposed sites at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood.