IGas has been granted a mining waste permit for two exploration wells at its proposed shale gas site at Springs Road, Misson, north Nottinghamshire.
The Environment Agency (EA) said in a decision document published yesterday: “We are satisfied that the imposition of conditions on the permit will mean it is operated in a way which protects the environment and human health.”
A spokesperson added:
“The permits set out the conditions that IGas must follow in order to protect groundwater, surface water and air quality and to ensure the safe storage, management and disposal of waste materials.
“Should IGas receive the appropriate planning permission and begin the permitted activities, we will stringently enforce the conditions of the permits to ensure that waste is managed properly and local groundwater is protected.”
IGas Chief Executive, Stephen Bowler, described it as an important step towards exploratory drilling at the site.
“Such a detailed review by the regulator alongside the public consultation demonstrates that, as we have committed, our proposed exploratory operations will be carried out safely and in an environmentally responsible manner.”
The company proposes to drill a 3,500m vertical well and a second well to a depth of 2,500m followed by a horizontal section of up to 1,500m.
The permit does not allow hydraulic fracturing, venting or the handling of naturally-occurring radioactive material (NORM). The Environment Agency said the permit would need variations if IGas chose to frack, carry out well-testing or produce hydrocarbons from the well.
IGas has applied for planning permission for the site. A decision by Nottinghamshire County Council is expected later in the summer.
The Springs Road site was a Cold War missile test centre. It is 268m from the nearest building, Prospect Farm, and 125m from the boundary of Misson Carr, a wetland Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
According to the EA, the operation at both wells will use water-based drilling muds to drill through the Magnesian Limestone to a depth of about 1,500 metres.
Oil based drilling muds will then be used to complete the second section of both wells to approximately 2,500m at the bottom of the Bowland Shale formation.
For the final section of the vertical well (to be called Springs Road-1 if it gets permission) water based drilling muds will be used again, to drill through the Carboniferous Limestone.
According to the decision document, drilling is estimated to produce:
- 3,500 tonnes of waste clays and sands
- 7,000 tonnes of water-based rock cuttings
- 3,500 water-based drilling muds and waste
- 775 tonnes of low toxicity oil-based drilling cuttings
The EA carried out two public consultations on the permit application. The decision document shows the organisation’s responses to issues raised by statutory consultees and members of the public. We’ve listed the main concerns alphabetically.
Climate change In response to concerns that the development was not in line with national energy and climate change policy, the EA said:
“One of the policy’s main goals is to maximise the economic recovery of oil and gas from the UK’s oil and gas reserves, whilst taking full account of environmental, social and economic objectives.”
Decommissioning The EA said monitoring at the site would continue into the post-decommissioning period and would have to demonstrate that no impact has occurred and that there are no ongoing environmental issues.
Drilling chemicals There were concerns that no details of chemical in the permit documentation. The EA said IGas has provided a full list, adding:
“We have assessed the additives to be used and we are satisfied that they will not cause environmental harm at the rates and levels of use proposed.”
Emissions Public Health England said IGas had not considered source emissions from diesel fuelled plant. The EA said the site was unlikely to “give rise to significant dust or impact on air quality”. It added:
“The largest source of emissions will be from vehicles, generators etc, which are not covered by the permit”.
Fire and Rescue Service There were concerns that the EA had not consulted Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue department. The EA said this wasn’t necessary.
Flooding. The EA said it was satisfied sufficient measures were in place to protect the site rom flooding.
Geological fault lines not mapped correctly The EA said its Hydrogeological Risk Assessment had accurately documented the risks.
Impacts on property values The EA said these were not relevant.
Light pollution This was outside the remit of the permit, the EA said.
Noise The EA said:
“Concerns have been raised that the activities will cause noise pollution. We are satisfied that the activities, if carried out in accordance with the Permit, will not cause noise pollution.”
Protected species and water levels in the SSSI Natural England requested clarification on how water levels, water use, drainage and quality would be affected by the borehole. There were also concerns about the impact on protected species. The EA said
“The assessment concluded that the proposed activity was not an operation likely to damage SSSIs… There are no records of protected bat, owl or bird populations in the area”.
Rights of way Some comments said the site was unacceptably close to public rights of way and the Beech Hill Railway crossing. The EA said this was a matter for Nottinghamshire County Council. “We do not consider any emissions from the permitted activities will impact on any Public Rights of Way”, the document said. It added:
“Subject to any other condition of this permit, periodic monitoring shall be carried out at least once every 5 years for groundwater and 10 years for soil, unless such monitoring is based on a systematic appraisal of the risk of contamination.”
Viability and trust in IGas The EA said no reason to think IGas would not comply with permit requirements and conditions or operate in accordance with the permit.
“We will assess the Operator’s activities and we will be checking they comply with the permit conditions as part of our compliance work.”
Vibration risk to unexploded ordnance The EA said the permit did “not authorise drilling per se”. Decisions over land use were for Nottinghamshire County Council, it added.
Well integrity The EA said it was satisfied with the proposed well construction, drilling additives, testing activities and site design.
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