Calls for Cheshire fracking referendum and clean-up fund

Cllr Lynn RileyA member on Cheshire West and Chester Council is calling for a local referendum on plans by INEOS to frack for shale gas in her area.

Lynn Riley, a Conservative councillor for Frodsham, also said if fracking were approved INEOS must put aside “serious money” in case anything went wrong.

Speaking after a meeting organised by INEOS for local authorities, Cllr Riley said local trust in the company was low.

“Right now the community does not want them.”

But she said:

“If they are so confident that they have done everything they can to convince the community then they should be prepared to go before a local referendum.”

“They need to be open and honest. They need to work hard if they want to gain our trust and understanding. They need to go considerably further than the regulatory framework requires of them.

“That means going to the schools, holding public meetings, talking to people who want to know more and putting significant money on the table in terms of indemnity against any future problems.

“If this is a one-off I will be out opposing them.”

Shale Gas rig INEOS

Shale gas site. Picture: INEOS

Cllr Riley said many people hadn’t had an opportunity – or taken it up – to find out about fracking.

“We want this opportunity for people so when that referendum is held they can make an informed choice. I think that is a reasonable expectation for both sides.”

She said INEOS had to put in “some very significant effort”. Otherwise, she said, “we will be dragging them kicking and screaming to our events or naming and shaming them if they don’t turn up.”

We are being honest with INEOS, she said.

“If you want us not to fight you through the planning process and drag this out for years through appeals you have to behave in a way that proves you are sincere.”

She described the meeting at Frodsham as a PR exercise.

“They were very sensitive to the words used and the tone of the information they were giving. This is either a start or a three-hour cul-de-sac. What comes next is the most important thing.”

Cllr Riley said there were local worries about what would happen if fracking caused an accident.

“This is not likely to be my problem. It will be a problem for my children and my grandchildren and I don’t want it on my watch that INEOS have left us with some very unpleasant legacy that no-one has the funds to rectify.”

She said some “very dangerous” industries had been imposed on Frodsham and local people had not been asked whether they wanted them.

“Over recent years, we have been ‘blessed’ by an INEOS incinerator in Runcorn one mile away, a Peel 126 acre resource recovery with two incinerators four miles away and a wind farm that no-one wanted. All of them complied with the regulatory framework.”

“We are determined that, for fracking and any unconventional oil and gas, developers understand the need to work with us to build trust and understanding. And if they get their way they should put something on the table that compensates for the impact.”

Hydraulic fracturing spread INEOS

Hydraulic fracturing operation. Picture: INEOS

She said the town had seen benefits of work in the chemical industry and she wanted it to prosper. But she added: “Not at any price.”

“We want to influence behaviour of big industry. You have to convince us. I don’t mind how much that costs.

“You [INEOS] have a duty of care to look out for my interests. We don’t give a toss about the bottom line. But we do give a toss about each other.

“We believe it’s on Ineos to build that understanding, to make sure people are informed, and that’s the only way you can build some degree of trust but that trust has to be backed by serious money.”

ineos2A spokesperson for INEOS said this evening:

“The Local Authority Development planning process is in place and we will continue to follow that. At the same time we will discuss our plans with the communities and hope to bring them along with us. The industry is already discussing with Government ways of providing for decommissioning liabilities.”

The spokesperson added:

“We will hold exhibitions in areas where activity is anticipated and the number and timing of events depends on the activity.

“For seismic acquisition that will consist of exhibitions explaining what we will be doing, why we need to do it and what we do with the information, where it will be, what is involved, what residents can expect to see and how long it should take.

“Ahead of submission of planning applications for wells we will speak to parish councillors and local residents to explain what we are planning to do, what the purpose of the wells are, what is involved, how long it will take and at the same time ask for their feedback and local knowledge so that we can take it into account in our submission.

“As the applications proceed we will remain in contact with the local communities to update them and answer any subsequent questions.

“Another aspect is that whether or not a planning application is contemplated if a parish council or other group in our licence areas would like us to come and speak to them we are happy to do so.

“We started a conversation with the communities through their elected representatives last week and we expect that conversation to expand within the communities and continue over the months and years to come.”

What INEOS told local councillors?

The Fordsham meeting was one of several held last week by INEOS in its licence areas in Cheshire, the East Midlands and North Yorkshire. A presentation organised for councillors from the York area was merged with a session for the Malton area because of low numbers from York.

We’ve put together some of the key points made by the company, based on reports from people who attended and statements by INEOS. Click to see information panels from the events INEOS information panels Malton meeting  and the presentation slides.

Wells and sites

  • The minimum distance of fracked wells from houses would be 400m
  • In a 10km x 10km licence block, INEOS estimates 10 well pads and 10-14 wells per site, each with a horizontal well approximately 2km long. However, a diagram on the company’s website (now removed) showed 30 wells site for the same size block.
  • Well pads would be approximately 3 acres
  • Fracking for shale gas was a relatively small part of the INEOS group’s activities


  • Participants reported that INEOS said it did not envisage fracking using volumes under the definition in the Infrastructure Act in the North York Moors National Park. But they said the company told the Malton meeting small stimulations could show the extent of gas reserves and might be useful if the company drilled under the National Park.
  • Drilling would take approximately three months for the first well on a site but this could be reduced to 20-25 days for subsequent wells.
  • Fracking would take 1.5 days per well.
  • 2-4 million gallons of water would be needed to frack each well
  • Wells were expected to have a life of 15-20 years
  • INEOS accepted an ongoing obligation to return the site to its original condition and remedy any issues.
  • Seismic testing was not planned in the North York Moors National Parks and vibration trucks only would be used in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Waste and impacts

  • Waste from fracking wells would be treated before being discharged into the sea.
  • Estimated volumes of flowback were 50-70%.
  • Participants reported INEOS said it was having conversations with a number of water companies about treatment of flowback.
  • The company told DrillOrDrop there is a well established industry in the UK for treating and disposing of waste from the North Sea oil and gas wells
  • INEOS would make good any wear and tear on local roads
  • The company did not accept that the value of homes would fall as a result of fracking, participants reported.
  • Participants said the company could not say how many lorry movements would be generated by a shale gas site. But they reported the company said it was working on having no lorry movements because water would be extracted from onsite boreholes or from rivers.
  • Wellsites would be screened and wellheads would be painted green to reduce landscape impacts

Social licence and community involvement

  • At one session, a councillor reported the company said it would not walk away if it was not supported by the community. The company said it did not say explicitly that it would not pursue operations in these circumstances.

INEOS information panels Malton meeting

Link to INEOS online presentation slides

DrillorDrop interview with Tom Pickering


12 replies »

  1. Seems to me a compensation fund for anyone damaged by fracking actiivity seems like a good idea to me. If I remember rightly the old Coal Board had a similar scheme, if your house suffered from subsidence from mine workings the Coal Board would remedy the situation at their expense, seems fair to me. Personally I don’t think the shale companies would be paying out because it’s unlikely a 5 inch pipe running 4000 under your house is going to have much of an impact. I certainly wouldn’t object especiallly if the local community is going to beneft financially. The rare incidents in the US after 350,000 fracked wells were caused by incompetence or poor regulation and I’m afraid that will happen in any industry, even in the NHS.

    • “unlikely a 5 inch pipe running 4000 under your house is going to have much of an impact”

      Official Report by DECC, reviewed by British Geological Survey, on technical failings at Preese Hall.

      Click to access 5055-preese-hall-shale-gas-fracturing-review-and-recomm.pdf

      Clearly in the UK a 5inch pipe with 6 small fracks (total water used 8399 cubic metres which under new “rules” means that this is not even classed as fracking) 48 recordable seismic events, Natural fault activation, 2 earth quakes, substantial well deformation, and an FOI showing issues with well integrity. Clearly substantial impact.
      Now multiply by thousands and incorporate cumulative impact.
      You may not object but I think you will find tens of thousands who already have and thousands more will follow.

      • I am no expert but it seems to me that Cuadrilla did not use sufficient 3D geological data to plan the Preese Hall frack, they drilled straight into or close to an unstable fault. I suspect they will not be so stupid again as they will not get a third chance. I remain however convinced that the environmental and economic benefits from homegrown gas production are so great that we should persevere with shale gas exploration, to assess what is possible. Induced seismic activity of course didn’t stop coal mining which may be a good or bad thing depending on opinion.

        Perhaps it’s worth noting that the “earthquake” at Preese Hall was described by the local paper as “noticed by up to six people” or something similar. The scale used is a logarithmic on, an episode of 2.0 is relatively small. I am not underestimating the need to drill sensibly and safely. I am concerned however that the new induced seismicity threshold of 0.5 will prove difficult to meet. I remember it being said that a seismic detector placed close to a Premiership football ground will detect seismic activity from crowd reaction when a goal is scored, and remember it is ground vibration that is being measured, not noise as such. Similarly when attempts were made to monitor seimic activity during the Sussex test drilling, the equipment was overwhelmed by the vibration from the London to Brighton train line which was 200 metres away. Again it’s vibration not noise we are talking about.

        In the end I guess it’s all about costs versus benefits. I can’t imagine that any industrial process is without risks. Battery technology of course depends on the mining or extraction of lithium and rare earth minerals which is disruptive and environmentally damaging but then that’s in a far away country.

        • Mark, I’m no expert either but living less than 5 miles from Cuadrilla’s fracking site on the Fylde Coast I know at least two minor earthquakes occurred simultaneously with their ‘test’ drilling. Also, if you’re basing your assumption on reports from our local newspaper perhaps you should note that very few local people take that publication seriously.

          • I think the enquiry concluded that the tremors where linked so closely in time and location to the fracking that it was almost certainly the cause. The tremor was recorded as 2.3 and interpretations of the Richter scale say either that a tremor of 2 to 2.9 are “felt by some people but no damage to property” or on another site “not usually felt but recorded on a seismograph” which is roughly in line with what the local paper said. Let’s hope as I said that Cuadrilla choose and work their new site more carefully as I think the shale gas industry has the potential to revolutionise UK energy.

            Shale gas in the USA from 350,000 completed wells (big country) has reduced natural gas prices to half those in Europe and helped cut US CO2 emissions over the last 5 years to below 2010 levels, whereas Germany, the centre of renewable technology have kept their CO2 static or increased it because of the need to backup wind and solar by burning really nasty brown coal to generate despatchable electricity in the dark depths of winter

          • I believe it was up to 50 earth tremors all in all.
            Ofcourse Ohio use to experience only minor tremors in the beginning but the evidence is clear that like many other intensely fracked states the earthquakes increased in intensity and increased regularity.

        • You have referenced the figure of 0.5M. This figure is mentioned in the official report above. Presumably you will have read the rest of the report regarding future seismicity.

          After causing a 2.3M quake Cuadrilla stated that future magnitude levels should have a max threshold setting of 1.7M. (which is a European standard).This report explains that a 1.7M quake would carry a post event rise of 0.9M. This means that Cuadrilla have actualy asked for a 2.6M max threshold for the future. This is larger than the 2.3M quake already experienced! To get round this the BGS suggest a 0.5M max at which point operations will cease. This report states that the 0.5M is for “the next few operations” and can be “adjusted over time” to a likely max of 3M.

          This initial 0.5M threshold is clearly not the real figure for shale gas extraction. Cuadrilla have openly asked the DECC to be allowed to activate seismic events of 2.6M.

          It should be noted that a 1M rise is felt 10 times as strong. A 2.6M is 3 times as strong as a 2.3M

          There are numerous references in the report that these events are likely to be repeated in future operations in the Bowland Shale.

          Now multiply by thousands and incorporate cumulative impact

          With regards to 3D data and “third chances”. People won’t buy that. Remember Cuadrilla are vastly experienced and know exactly what they are doing.

          “Members of Cuadrilla’s management team have each played leading roles in the drilling and/or hydraulic fracturing of more than 3,000 natural gas and oil wells across the world. Cuadrilla is aiming to be a “model company” for unconventional exploration in the UK. It is acutely aware of the responsibilities this brings, particularly with regard to safety, environmental protection and working with local communities.”

          It would appear that what we have seen so far would be the future model. With regards to seismicity, very concerning

  2. I think local referendums on fracking would show exactly how little public support this industry has. The communities facing fracking are being short changed by this government on many counts and how fracking is being handled is completely in the true legal sense inequitable.

  3. Had a quick look at the BGS website, they are setting up monitoring equipment around the Kirby Misperton site to provide baseline seismic readings and monitor the fracking, if it occurs there. Must be a good thing. By the way the BGS website provides a continuous record of seismic activity in the UK and it notes that over the last 50 days there have been about 17 significant seismic events in the UK. The UK of course is not an area of geological instability which just illustrates that sudden movement of the strata under our feet is much more common than most of us realise.

  4. What a short memory Cllr Riley has. As part of the then Tory CWaC administration, she was more than happy to let 9 planning applications for coal bed methane be approved by delegated powers i.e. the decisions were taken by an unellected council officer. Two of these planning decisions, Ince Marshes and Portside, have also been approved for full CBM production for a period of up to 25 years. All done without the knowledge let alone consultation of the local community. Of course this change in direction can have nothing to do with her wanting to become the next Tory leader on CWaC council – can it?

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