Industry

Updated: Local surprise at Cuadrilla plans for monitoring boreholes at frack site

GBBO

A group campaigning to prevent fracking at a field at Little Plumpton near Blackpool has said it is surprised at plans by Cuadrilla to drill four groundwater monitoring boreholes on the site.

The company has notified Lancashire County Council that it will drill the boreholes at the site next to Preston New Road – even though it does not have permission to frack. The site featured last month in a Bake-Off style anti-fracking protest by Emma and Sophie Thompson.

Cuadrilla has also said it plans to submit a similar notification for another proposed fracking site at Roseacre Wood.

A planning inspector is currently considering appeals by the company to frack at both sites. A decision by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is not expected until at least July.

Cuadrilla’s Chief Executive, Francis Egan, said:

“Whilst we wait for the outcome of our appeals for planning permission for both exploration sites, we want to ensure that if we do get the go ahead we are fully prepared to meet our obligations on baseline monitoring of the ground water. This will allow us to reassure and demonstrate to the local community and our regulators that the groundwater will not be adversely impacted by our operations.”

But this morning, Pat Davies, chair of Preston New Road Action Group, said:

[The group] is surprised to learn Cuadrilla intend to drill the water boreholes in advance of any decision by the Secretary of State about their appeal. The monitoring planning application for Cuadrilla at Preston New Road site was rejected by Lancashire County Council.”

Roseacre reaction

Elizabeth Warner, chair of Roseacre Awareness Group, said:

Francis Egan, CEO of fracking company Cuadrilla wrote to local residents today to inform them that Cuadrilla would seek to drill four groundwater boreholes around Roseacre Wood. He will do this because he wishes to allay residents’ fears!!! The fact that Cuadrilla has been refused planning permission for the fracking site and the outcome of their appeal (which will surely uphold Lancashire’s decision) is unknown, is apparently no barrier to their plans.

However, Mr Egan really cannot adopt a posture of concern for residents as he marches on.

  • Cuadrilla refused to listen to residents’ pleas for the company to properly assess the impact of noise from its proposed 24 hour a day drilling.
  • Refused to assess in any way the impact of all night lighting at the site.
  • Refused to assess honestly the impact on walkers, horse riders and cyclists who use Fylde’s rural lanes around the site.
  • Refused to use best practice to measure landscape harm preferring methods which minimised the damage which the site (with its rigs, security fencing, storage containers, 9metre wide access road and flaring stacks) will inflict on the countryside and……
  • Even ignored its own industry guidance  which expects Cuadrilla  to assess the impact on road safety of a 200% increase in 44tonne, 17.5 metre long articulated lorry traffic travelling along roads where two cars passing each other  must take care.

And yet, where it is required to monitor, as in groundwater, Cuadrilla adopts the pose (and given all that was exposed at the Public Inquiry that’s all it is) of responsible neighbour.

It is hard to choose which is the greater affront: the hypocrisy or the arrogance

Background

The council refused Cuadrilla’s plans to frack at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood in June 2015. It also refused permission for a monitoring scheme at Preston New Road. But two months later, the government announced plans to changed the rules on permitted development rights to allow monitoring boreholes to be drilled without the need for planning permission.

Under the 2015 Infrastructure Act, the level of methane in groundwater has, or will have, been monitored in the period of 12 months before the associated hydraulic fracturing begins

Cuadrilla said the boreholes would be 30m deep and drilling for four boreholes would take 16 days using two truck mounted rigs. It said the rigs would be less than 12 m high.

A council spokesman said:

“Cuadrilla has notified the county council of its intention to exercise the company’s right to permitted development for water monitoring at Preston New Road.”

“This means that planning permission would not normally be needed. We will assess these proposals and respond to Cuadrilla within the statutory 28 days.”

“Gas by mid-2017”

In an interview with Reuters, Mr Egan said first supplies of fracked shale gas from Lancashire could enter the UK market by mid-2017. He is quoted as saying:

“If we get good results from the wells … gas could go into the system next year.”

“With the general environment and where the North Sea industry is going we are determined as ever to press on and secure a new gas source.”

Updated at 20.03 to clarify the requirements of the Infrastructure Act on groundwater monitoring.

Updated 9/5/2016 to include Roseacre Awareness Group reaction

41 replies »

  1. This is a good sign – it shows that Cuadrilla intends to live up to its environmental protection obligations and should be welcomed.

    As well as helping to identify any changes to local groundwater conditions (good and bad) as a result of its potential future drilling and fracking activity, Cuadrilla’s monitoring will also inform the debate about how to reduce the nitrate pollution that affects local rivers and coastal bathing waters at Blackpool.

    It’s not surprising that it’s decided to this now, even though the Secretary of State hasn’t approved its plans – in any energy or industrial development, there are activities that have to be performed “out of synch” because to do otherwise would extend the overall project timelines.

    If the Secretary of State, after receiving the recommendations of the planning inspector, decides not to approve Cuadrilla’s plans for PNR and Roseacre Wood, then Cuadrilla will just have to suck-up the fact its wasted its money on these groundwater monitoring boreholes.

      • Lee – I was interested to read the doubts about waste water disposal here https://drillordrop.com/2016/05/06/waste-water-costs-could-make-fracking-uneconomic-in-the-uk-academics/ where hey said ““A huge uncertainty, given the immaturity of unconventional oil and gas development in the UK, is how much waste water will be produced and regulatory and technical mechanisms for cleaning it or directly reusing it.”” and yet on 28th April you were tweeting “@Refracktion @BBCNWT No: the arrangements are in place for Cuadrilla to use, but we WON’T be doing it for them” – can you let us all (including those experts) know what these arrangements might be as nobody else really seems to be as confident as you are?

      • Ho Ho Michael – They aren’t looking after the environment – it looks more like they are trying to jump the gun on the inspector / minister’s decision

    • Can you offer any shred of evidence to suggest that water monitoring will include tests for nitrates?

    • What company that has already lost fortunes and run over budget suck up the fact it’s wasted money on groundwater monitoring?
      It’s not a good sign at all. Preemptive measures will only alienate the communities they wish to have a better relationship with. For the sake of approx 2 months they could have waited. Any fool can see that.

  2. “Operators are required under the 2015 Infrastructure Act to monitor groundwater for 12 months before fracking can begin.”

    Why is it a surprise that an Operator would want to drill these monitoring wells as soon as possible? Every day they delay is a day added to their drilling program. Why would they want to delay fracking their wells any longer?

    If the SOS refuses permission then this is not a big financial loss in comaprison to the money spent to date.

    Everyone should be pleased that a baseline of current water quality / methane content is established.

  3. Surely the point is that the groundwater wells were, as Ms Davies rightly says, part of a monitoring application which was REFUSED by LCC in June 2015. Cuadrilla, despite that refusal, are going ahead anyway. This is a cavalier attitude which is to my mind extremely reprehensible. The second point is that LCC never agreed that the monitoring was permitted development. That may be Cuadrilla’s view, but it was not shared by LLC. And if they believed it was permitted development why did they submit a planning application? I would also remind commenters that any obligation under one piece of legislation does not confer blanket rights and eliminate the need to comply with other legislation, in this case planning.

    Cuadrilla are trying to pull a fast one in order to keep their Australian backers happy. No-one is pleased to see unregulated drilling happening if it is totally unnecessary because the planning appeal against the refusal of the main fracking application is not granted. Cuadrilla should wait for the planning inspector’s report, and the Secretary of State’s decision based on that report.

    It is surely a complete paradox to suggest that Cuadrilla is doing this to look after the environment and at the same time to claim they are drilling because they are required to by law.

    • NickP,

      Drilling groundwater monitoring boreholes was always covered under Permitted Development Rights, except where connected to an existing or potential planning application, in which case they had to be folded into the wider application to which they related – all that’s changed is that link has now be severed. This applies to all developments, not just shale.

      As for your comments about Cuadrilla’s earlier monitoring application, if you look at it here http://cuadrillaresources.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/PNR_PL_Planning-Statement_Monitoring-Works.pdf#page26 you’ll find that the greater part of that was concerned with installation of a seismic array – groundwater monitoring actually formed a pretty minor part of that. And whilst Cuadrilla can now do that under Permitted Development Rights, it can’t with the much larger seismic monitoring piece.

    • Australian? Hmm – A J Lucas are increasingly Honk Kong / Chinese these days as they sell off the silver to stay afloat, and Cuadrilla’s other main owner, Riverstone, is based in USA

      • All the protestors have succeeded in doing is causing financial hardship for Cuadrilla’s mom and pop shareholders and transferring their interest to Chinese investors with deep pockets .

        Even the most stupid greentard and nimby must realise this was an own goal .

        There was a real chance of some new players but the protestors just had to try and stamp the life out of the minnow .

        If Lancashire County Council had done their job properly then operations would already be underway .

        Every one of us already owes Cuadrilla a debt of gratitude for single handedly throwing the spanner of reality in the works to harpoon H.M. Govt’s “bet the farm on renewables” energy policy .

        • Striebs – you’ll have me crying soon – those poor old mom and pop shareholders (in fact based on the Hot Copper bard these are seasoned small investors who are looking to make a quick buck and don’t care much how they do it.)

          The financial ricketiness of these “minnows” is exactly why we don’t want them anywhere near our shale. It’s the market not protestors that has stamped the life out of them – there is no way Cuadrilla or Third Energy or iGas can make a profit at 30p a therm. You know that, they know that and I know that. So we watch them frantically putting their last 50p into the fruit machine and hoping for the jackpot. It would be sad if it was only them getting hurt.

          • A large number of A.J. Lucas shareholders and therefore indirectly part owners of Cuadrilla are ordinary Britons who don’t have access to a decent vocational pension scheme but have nevertheless decided to try and make provision for their old age ,

            Many of these people are deeply patriotic and given the chance prefer to invest in companies which try to create jobs for their fellow Britons .

            How many of those of you who are lucky enough to have a vocational pension or have a private pension managed by someone else even look to see which companies you are invested in or bother to find out whether they are above board ?

            There are footsie companies which push substandard baby milk on the third world , others which engage agents to run sweatshops so they can’t be accused of doing it themselves .

            I recently decided against investing in a company which licensed Paris Hilton’s image rights because I don’t think she’s a good role model for young girls and don’t wish to participate in promoting her as such .

            Sorry but far from “not caring how they do it” , most small investors do a lot of research to make sure something is ethical before putting money into it – which onshore oil and gas E&P is when done properly as it is in the U.K. .

          • Stribes old boy – If “many of these people are deeply patriotic and given the chance prefer to invest in companies which try to create jobs for their fellow Britons” they’d not be investing in companies that funnel their profits offshore would they.

            “Most small investors do a lot of research to make sure something is ethical before putting money into it – which onshore oil and gas E&P is when done properly as it is in the U.K” – words fail me.

        • Chinese/Hong Kong? Hmmmm. If you’re going to use this logic, John Hobson, you might as well apply it to its conclusion. Kerogen may be based in Asia, but it has investors from all over the world. I know several large ones from the US, and some others in Europe. Hmmm.

  4. Why are the operators doing this monitoring? Surely any monitoring should be carried out by impartial regulators.

  5. Operators are not required to monitor water for 12 months before fracking can begin. This what should happen in order to fully understand the variation in flow of the underground aquifers during the different seasons. And this is what was originally intended, however when the government amended the the proposed Infrastructure Act – it was changed. What the Act actually states now is that underground water should be monitored in the 12 month period prior to drilling. A very marked change – it doesn’t even specify how long the water should be monitored for. This is an example of how legislation drafted with the best of intentions to protect the environment has been amended in favour of industry. And given this – I think it shows perhaps how confident Cuadrilla must feel about the outcome of the appeal – and that is very worrying for democracy.

  6. Hello KT. Thanks for your comment. You’re quite right on the provision in the infrastructure Act – and apologies for sloppy writing. Now corrected! Best wishes, Ruth

    • I am not so sure about this. The Infrastructure Act as written is vague. It doesn’t seem to represent the intention. See eg
      “The Infrastructure Act 2015 requires that, as one of a number of conditions that need to be met before certain high volume hydraulic fracturing can occur, methane in groundwater is monitored over a twelve months period.”
      This is taken from the House of Commons briefing paper SN06418 dated 6th April 2016 (when the latest PD amendments came into force and a month after the changes were rubber-stamped by Parliament).

      One more example of how in the government’s haste to force shale gas on the polulace it has skimped on considering how to make legislation watertight.

      This was not your sloppy writing Ruth! This is a festering wound.

      Having looked carefully at the evidence I do not believe that given the environmental permit that Cuadrilla has, nor the provisions of the Infrastructure Act and the new PD regulations that they can possibly be granted PD rights for their groundwater drilling/monitoring.

  7. @-environmentor
    regarding permitted development the monitoring, neither seismic nor groundwater, was not accepted to be under permitted development rights. There was talk at the time from LCC planning officers of the monitoring being perhaps agreed as de minimis and not needing further permission. However that did not happen. It is water under the bridge. Cuadrilla applied for planning permission for the monitoring. This was refused. Now they are going ahead anyway despite the refusal. This is further evidence that Cuadrilla have no regard whatsoever for due planning process, as they demonstrated several times in breaching planning conditions earlier, both in Lancashire and Sussex. This is not acceptable behaviour, in my opinion. They were refused permission for the groundwater wells and they should await the outcome of their appeal. It seems a very straightforward issue to me.

    Again I ask if this was permitted development, why did Cuadrilla apply for the planning permission for the water monitoring boreholes? I am fully aware that was part of a wider application, but the fact remains that both at Preston New Road and at Roseacre Wood they felt it necessary to make a formal application. Had the planning applications been granted there would have been conditions attached protecting both residents and the environment. Now Cuadrilla have taken a decision to drill and be damned they have shown no regard for either.

    • I am not so sure about this. The Infrastructure Act as written is vague. It doesn’t seem to represent the intention. See eg
      “The Infrastructure Act 2015 requires that, as one of a number of conditions that need to be met before certain high volume hydraulic fracturing can occur, methane in groundwater is monitored over a twelve months period.”
      This is taken from the House of Commons briefing paper SN06418 dated 6th April 2016 (when the latest PD amendments came into force and a month after the changes were rubber-stamped by Parliament).

      One more example of how in the government’s haste to force shale gas on the polulace it has skimped on considering how to make legislation watertight.

      This was not your sloppy writing Ruth! This is a festering wound.

      Having looked carefully at the evidence I do not believe that given the environmental permit that Cuadrilla has, nor the provisions of the Infrastructure Act and the new PD regulations that they can possibly be granted PD rights for their groundwater drilling/monitoring.

    • Oil and gas is an issue of national importance .

      The opinions of local authorities and residents are irrelevant .

      Cuadrilla are not obligated to abide by local refusals once they have been overridden by national govt .

      Sooner this is made an issue of national strategic importance and protestors who overstep the mark are treated like terrorists the better .

      • I think it’s time you went to bed Striebs – you are getting over-excited!

        We all know you and your cronies don’t care a damn for local residents but thanks for putting it down in writing so we can all see it.

  8. @-environmentor

    “Drilling groundwater monitoring boreholes was always covered under Permitted Development Rights”

    Actually this is not the case, in my understanding. At the time of Cuadrilla’s applications for fracking and monitoring the drilling of boreholes for shale gas monitoring was excluded from PD rights. The government only later implemented new development rights for monitoring associated with petroleum development.

    I think it should be left to legal experts to sort out whether a refusal of permission still holds. What is for sure is that Cuadrilla have displayed once again their insensitivity, and their action is likely to have adverse impact on their relations with the public. If they deliberately put people’s backs up by this type of action they will have to bear the consequences.

    • Just as a further clarification the new changes to permitted development rights came into effect on April 6th this year, (not two months after the LCC refusal of Cuadrilla’s planning application as suggested in the article). This is very recent and it is untested in law whether Cuadrilla are within their rights in now claiming permitted development whilst the Secretary of State still has to consider the monitoring application. The current legal state is surely that their application to drill stands refused. Further the LCC have the right to oppose the application of PD rights, so let’s wait and see.

  9. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/energy/fracking/12130801/Ministers-plot-to-foil-anti-frackers.html

    ABSOLUTELY INEXCUSABLE BEHAVIOR……The people of Lancashire have already given a clear NO to fracking………the government and Cuadrilla manifestly think they can ride rough shod over a community that has campaigned long and hard for this decision……..i think they are in for a massive shock…..

    For over 5 years the people of Lancashire have been campaigning against Cuadrilla Resources and their plans to frack Lancashire. In 2015 after many months of dedication, hard work, sacrifice and campaigning by residents Lancashire County Council supported their constituents and overwhelmingly rejected Cuadrilla’s planning application to drill 8 wells at 2 sites on the Fylde. But in a bitter twist that flies in the face of democracy Cuadrilla’s appeal against Lancashire County Council’s decision was fast tracked to one man; The Secretary of State, Greg Clark MP.
    Greg Clark, aside from being The Secretary of State, is also the Conservative MP for Tunbridge Wells, one of the wealthiest counties in England, where there will be no fracking. On the 23rd May 2014 in response to the news that fracking can now take place under homes without the owners permission an article appeared in The Guardian entitled Fracking in Tunbridge Wells: ‘Where is it going to stop?’. Commenting on the news one local resident and business owner stated “fracking was important for the UK economy, but she felt wealthy areas like Sevenoaks would reject it”. She doesn’t have to worry because a British Geological Survey stated there was no potential for shale gas exploration in Kent and much of the oil reserve would be impossible to access.
    How ironic that the decision to be made on the fracking future of Northern England rests solely with a Conservative MP who is a pro-fracker but who will have no fracking in his backyard!
    How do we know Greg Clark is pro UK onshore shale gas production? A series of leaked documents to Friends of the Earth revealed the Conservative Government is not only pro-fracking but is also in a rush to get production up and running, as fast as possible and at any cost.
    On 07 July 2015, in response to George Osborne’s original email to the Economic Affairs Committee, Greg Clark et al set out their vision for fracking in England, which included the ambitious objective of having, within 2 years, “exploration under way and the first few sites hydraulic fracturing” and within five years “production under way from the first converted sites”
    On a recent visit to Hull by ‘Mr Clark’ MP and Secretary of State we challenged him about the undemocratic decision to by pass the planning process and asked him to give us, the people, an explanation of his letter.

    Mr Clark didn’t answer our questions and he couldn’t offer any valid explanation, because quite frankly, how can a so called representative of the people and democracy openly state that his government doesn’t care what the people think. That everything in the South of England will be fine because they’ll only be fracking in the desolate North and our opinions, our views and our democratically reached decisions don’t count.

    https://www.nodrillnospill.org/news/no-drill-no-spill-vs-secretary-state/

    ABSOLUTELY OUTRAGEOUS……. GREG CLARK is a disgrace and the whole Tory government!!!!!

    • Kem ,

      Energy is an issue of national importance .

      Companies have to drill where the hydrocarbons are located .

      Your views as a local carry no more weight than someone located in Wales , Norwich or Scotland .

      Just accept that soon hard working people are going to be getting jobs supplying the U.K.. with domestic gas , keeping the British steel industry going with demand for well casings and supplying ethane to keep the British chemical industry from relocating .

      Think of the transformational effect it will have on the family of someone who gets a job out of this – or ends up keeping their job becaues of the benefits that it is going to bring to the U.K.

      • Striebs – you seem to be under the misapprehension that if fracking is not allowed then we will not have power in the UK. When you talk of the British chemical industry relocating are you suggesting that Ineos might go back to Switzerland to save on paying UK taxes again if they don’t get their own way on fracking? http://www.ineos.com/news/ineos-group/ineos-confirms-change-of-tax-residence-to-switzerland

        Think of the transformational effect it will have on the family of someone who loses a job out of this – say in tourism or agriculture or other affected industries – mind you there could be be plenty of opportunities in healthcare and legal services I suppose – it’s an ill wind ….

    • Kem, here is where you are mistaken. Greg Clark was democratically elected, was he not? Was he put in his spot as Secretary of Communities in a democratic process? Has he taken up the Cuadrilla appeal in a manner consistent with the regulatory framework adopted in a democratic government? Have the Tories gained control of the government in a democratic election? Was it not the will of the people to elect the pro-fracking Tories to run government? What I find ABSOLUTELY OUTRAGEOUS is your narrow-minded NIMBYism. My grandmother and many of her friends may die from your self-centered, impractical, pixie-dust sprinkled, ideas on energy policy. This nation (all of it) needs access to homegrown natural gas for our energy security and to diversify our energy supplies. I don’t want to read more stories about fuel poverty, pensioner deaths, grid brown-outs, etc. I want a real energy policy, not one built on a hope that the sun will shine, the wind will blow, and we will figure out an economic solution to energy storage. I want an energy policy that will make our industries competitive again. I want an energy policy that can lower our GHG emissions impressively as has happened in America. So save us your selfish rants and look at the bigger picture for once.

      • Bill – I am rather surprised that you have allowed yourself to be taken in by the promises of cheap gas and alleviation of fuel poverty by fracking. Of course maybe you haven’t and you are just enjoying a selfish rant?

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