Council officials are being urged to monitor surveying for oil and gas which got underway in Sefton and West Lancashire yesterday after residents complained about vibrations.
Tesla Exploration is carrying out a seismic survey for Aurora Energy Resources in an area inland from Formby and Southport.
Tesla has laid explosive charges in fields creating low booms, at times every three minutes. In local villages specialist vehicles, called vibroseis trucks, have created vibrations.
“Shook to hell”
This morning, one couple contacted the police when they said they felt the walls of their home shake. They said:
“We are calling the police. Our houses are being shook to hell here and there are young kids”.
Another resident said pictures had been shaken off walls at his home. There have been concerns about the impact of the survey on livestock. There were also reports of dogs bolting.
“Extreme worry for many residents”
Maureen Mills, a local borough councillor, said this evening:
“I have had many phone calls and emails today from very concerned residents of Halsall and Haskayne about the effects of the shot point explosions and vibroseis trucks too close to residential properties and livestock. This is causing extreme worry for many residents.”
Cllr Mills, who represents Halsall on West Lancashire Borough Council and opposes fracking, contacted Lancashire County Council today about residents’ concerns. She asked Jonathan Haine, Lancashire’s principal planning officer, to send someone out to the area urgently.
Mr Haine replied that he had no reason to believe that the survey was not being carried out within planning law. He said:
“There will be some vibration arising from the survey as this is an intrinsic and essential part of the process”.
But he said there was nothing in planning law to limit the level of vibration, other than a restriction on the size of any charges. He said:
“I have no reason to think that the charges are greater than the 2kg permitted”.
But he said he would mention local concerns to the manager of the operation.
“No risk from vibrations”
Tesla told residents in a leaflet:
“Neither the surveying equipment used nor the vibrations produced pose any risk to property, public safety or health.”
Lancashire Constabulary has confirmed that Tesla is appropriately licensed and experienced in handling explosives. It said the company had a track record of similar operations elsewhere and that it met all the requirements of the Health and Safety Executive.
According to correspondence from Lancashire County Council, Tesla has been monitoring vibration at homes. The highest vibration level recorded for the charges is 2.2 mm/sec and 2.6 mm/sec for the vibroseis. Both readings are well below the 15mm sec level stated in British Standards when cosmetic damage to properties might be possible.
What’s involved in seismic surveying?
Seismic surveying creates vibrations by explosive charges buried in the ground – the shot point explosions – or by dropping a pad from the vibroseis truck onto roads. The vibrations travel through rock layers and where the rock type changes they are reflected back to the surface. Microphones detect the reflected vibrations and help to produce images of the underlying geology.
The process is carried out under permitted development rights, which means companies do not have to apply for planning permission. But the mineral planning authority – in this case Lancashire County Council – is responsible for ensuring that seismic surveying is carried out according to the permitted development rights.
DrillOrDrop watched the process near Halsall today.
At one point, a member of the Tesla team asked us to leave the public road alongside one of the fields because “dangerous equipment was being used”. We were photographed and the car number plate was recorded.
The survey is being carried out in Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL) 164 in an area east of Formby and south of Southport. The shot point explosions were at precise locations on 18 lines running north-south and a series of lines running roughly east-west (see map above).
DrillOrDrop understands that fields in the survey area were pre-drilled with 8 metre holes some days before testing began. Today, teams of five people were carrying out the explosions.
The pre-drilled holes were located using GPS. The explosive, weighing ½ kg, was added to each hole and detonated. The vibration from the explosion was picked up by microphones and a measuring device.
We understand Tesla had three teams working on shot point explosions across the area today. A vibroseis truck was also in use. The surveying is expected to last about 10 days and must end by the middle of August under an agreement with Lancashire County Council.
Church Commissioners visit
The biggest local landowner, the Church Commissioners, visited the area yesterday to observe the surveying. The body originally refused access to land farmed by its tenants. But when it faced legal action in the High Court it negotiated with Aurora. DrillOrDrop report
The head of responsible investment, Edward Mason, has said the Church Commissioners would not benefit financially from the surveying and added:
“A geophysical survey does not create a presumption of later test drilling or extraction and the agreement we are negotiating covers seismic testing only.”
But Aurora told Halsall Parish Council if the results of the survey were encouraging, it expected to seek planning permission to drill exploration wells.
The parish council has supported the community group, Halsall Against Fracking. At the June meeting, the clerk was asked to write to Lancashire County Council and United Utilities to express concerns about possible damage to underground pipes during the surveying.
On Sunday, Halsall Against Fracking is organising a protest about fracking and the seismic testing programme. The Everything We Stand To Lose tour will use a double-decker bus to take opponents on a tour of the survey area, before heading to Southport with the intention of raising awareness locally. Details
Today Halsall Against Fracking published contact details for Tesla and Aurora for people concerned about the seismic testing. Link
Future seismic surveying
More seismic surveying can be expected in the next few years. According to information from the Oil and Gas Authority, which overseas exploration licences, there are firm commitments by companies to do 2D seismic surveying in 45 licence areas and 3D surveys in another 33. DrillOrDrop report
Updated 29/7/2016 to include data from Tesla monitoring of vibrations at homes.
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