IGas won’t pay Upton eviction costs and calls time on Lesters Lane


IGas chief executive, Stephen Bowler

Letters seen by the Chester Standard suggest that IGas will not pay the £200,000 policing bill for the eviction of an anti-fracking camp from its coal bed methane site at Upton.

In separate correspondence with a Cheshire MP the company’s chief executive, Stephen Bowler, has confirmed there are no plans to work at another coal bed methane site in the county.

Upton eviction costs

On 12th January this year, about 175 police officers from four forces were involved in the eviction of the camp at the IGas site at Dutton’s Lane in Upton. DrillOrDrop report

But on 5th February, IGas, announced it had abandoned plans to drill at the site because the coal bed methane was not commercially viable. More details.

John Dwyer

John Dwyer

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, John Dwyer, wrote to IGas asking it to pay the estimated £200,000 costs of the policing operation. He said protesters would have left the camp voluntarily if they’d known the site was going to be abandoned. Details

But according to the Chester Standard the reply from chief executive, Stephen Bowler, released under the Freedom of Information Act, makes no reference to the request for funding.

Mr Dwyer, in a second letter to Mr Bowler, reportedly said:

“I am disappointed that you have not addressed the issue of funding the police operation and make no offer to refund Cheshire ratepayers.”

Mr Dwyer said:

“I remain of the opinion that, had the eviction been postponed until after this decision had been taken, the need for a costly eviction which placed the safety of the public, protesters and police at risk would have been completely removed.”

According to the correspondence, Mr Bowler said the announcement about abandoning Dutton’s Lane could not have been made sooner. IGas had received seismic data only on 1st February 2016.

Mr Bowler reportedly said:

“The conclusion drawn by IGas… was that the CBM (coal bed methane) resource in this immediate area was unlikely to be commercially viable.”

“We could not have made this decision and communicated our intention to key stakeholders, including the council, any earlier than we did.”

Withdrawal from Lesters Lane

In separate correspondence, IGas has confirmed it has no permissions or plans for work at its Lesters Lane site, near Lower Kinnerton, in Cheshire.

A former operator of the site, Greenpark Energy, drilled a well between July and August 2011. At the time it said there was “high potential” for coal bed methane production around Chester and across the border into Wales.

Mark Tami MPBut in a letter to Alyn and Deeside MP, Mark Tami, (left) released yesterday, IGas said it had no permission to drill at Lesters Lane. It also said it had “no current operational timeline” for the site.

The Lesters Lane site had planning permission from Cheshire West and Chester Council for 20 years of coal bed methane production.

Earlier this year, protesters evicted from Upton established a camp at the site. They said they were concerned that IGas would drill horizontally into Flintshire.

The protesters said they would remain until IGas confirmed it had abandoned plans for coal bed methane exploration and production.

In the letter to Mark Tami, the IGas chief executive, Stephen Bowler, said the well had been plugged and abandoned and the site restored to its original condition.

He said:

“The planning permission held for this site only permitted a vertical exploratory well into the coal seam.”

“We undertook no work on the site last year. Further, there has been no recent work taking place on site”.

Mr Bowler continued:

“We have no current planning permissions for any further drilling operations and no intention of drilling horizontally under the border into Wales. We also have no current operational timeline for any further work on the site.”

This is the third Cheshire site this year where IGas has confirmed it has no plans for coal bed methane operations. As well as Duttons Lane, IGas also announced it was abandoning Mickle Trafford near Chester. Last year, it announced it was giving up on another coal bed methane site at Dudleston Heath in north Shropshire.

Opponents of IGas’s operations in the area are now seeking information about the company’s plans for other coal bed methane sites at Ince and Ellesmere Port.

Mark Tami letter

From Greenpark to IGas

In April 2012, the coal bed methane assets of Greenpark Energy were acquired by Dart Energy (CBM) International. On 16th October 2014, IGas acquired Dart Energy Ltd.


3 replies »

  1. It is a of concern that when they plug a well and leave it is no longer considered a borehole and the company apparently just walks away after this. Yet ReFINE found 30% of old conventional gas/oil wells were leaking methane. Similar studies carried out elsewhere in the world have also recorded similar results. There should be ongoing monitoring and liability for these wells. Possibly the companies need to be responsible for long term monitoring or provide a considerable sum to the appropriate body to continue to monitor. This may become an issue – given the unconventional gas industry cannot operate without drilling a lot of wells. Otherwise will the taxpayer be picking up the bill along with what was clearly unavoidable policing costs!

    • Agree, a sizeable site-bond should be deposited to cover eventualities, especially now UOG companies are starting to go bust due to the low crude price.

  2. How much methane are these wells actually “leaking”? I recall not very much and insignificant relative to natural methane seepage and marsh gas, and of course minute compared to agriculture and domestic cattle.

    Wandering Dutchman’s “bond” proposal is a good idea and is currently available I believe. If there is a post abandonment well incident / leak and a company has gone insolvent and there are no funds / no financially viable Partner or predecessor in the licence, the bonds will be utilised to cover the costs. Offshore platform and well abandonment costs are huge and there needs to be clarity / methodology for paying for these costs in the future in the event operators / partners etc. go insolvent. Better than the tax payer picking it up. But don’t let Greenpeace get involved (Brent Spa).

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