Fracking companies urged to limit number of well sites to reassure residents


Two Conservative MPs from shale gas areas have called for an upper limit on the number of fracking sites in exploration licence blocks.

Speaking at a meeting at Westminster, Mark Menzies (pictured left) and Kevin Hollinrake pressed fracking companies to estimate how many sites they would need in a 10km square.

They were taking evidence at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on shale gas regulation and planning.

Tom Pickering (1)One of the witnesses, Tom Pickering, Operations Director, INEOS Upstream, suggested his company was looking at 8-10 sites in a 10km block.

Kevin Hollinrake, whose constituency includes Kirby Misperton where Third Energy has permission to frack, described this as “reassuring” and asked:

“Why can’t we set that as a limit?”

Mr Menzies, who represents Fylde where Cuadrilla applied to frack up to eight wells across two sites, asked:

“If you are confident that in a 10 by 10km square it could be done with 8-10 pads what conversations have you had with government with regards to enshrining this in legislation?”

Mr Pickering replied: “We have not had discussions with government because we deal with the planning systems through local authorities.”

He said the issue of site density should be discussed with communities, not legislated for by government.

But Mr Menzies said:

“You need to have conversations with government. If you are confident that with new technology you can extract enough gas without going all over the place. This is about reassuring people. If we do not get something like this, you guys are stuffed. You have seen councillors reluctant to approve [shale gas applications].”

The potential industrialisation of rural areas and cumulative impact of multiple well sites is a major concern of opponents of fracking.

At a summit of shale gas operators organised by Kevin Hollinrake on 8 February 2016, companies with licences in Yorkshire agreed to produce a visualisation of the impact of future sites on the area. Seven months on, they have not delivered.

“We cannot pepper the countryside”

Representatives of IGas and Third Energy, also giving evidence to today’s meeting, would not put a figure on the number of the sites their companies needed.

David Robbotom, Chief Finance Director at Third Energy, said this was “premature”.

“We have been operating conventional well sites for 20 years and we intend to use these existing sites in preference. They just so happen to be well distributed for the resource so we will be able to use them for the first three or four sites. I would not want to waste government’s time on this.”

JohnBlaymires (2)John Blaymires, Chief Operating Officer of IGas, said:

“We understand the need to do this [estimate site numbers]. It is one of our biggest issues.”

He said some of figures being talked about for the number of sites were “ludicrous” but he described the figures mentioned at the meeting as “not unreasonable”. He added:

“There are limited places to which one can go. We cannot pepper the countryside and nor would we wish to.”

The Right Reverend Graham Cray, who lives in Kirby Misperton, asked Mr Robottom how many times Third Energy planned to frack or drill at the KM8 well near his village.

“My community needs some idea on duration of this.”

Referring to the legal challenge being sought for the Kirby Misperton planning approval, a spokesperson for Third Energy told the meeting this could not be discussed because it was “in the area of judicial review”.

“Absolute clarity”

Mr Hollinrake urged the industry to give people a clearer idea of how many sites would be needed.

“You are saying not zero but not thousands. There’s a big difference between the two. Unless you are able to give people the reassurance at this time you are going to face massive local concerns.

“We need absolute clarity on community benefit but also what it will mean for the landscape. I do not feel we are seeing that at the moment.”

Mark Menzies said there had been “enormous advances” in legislation and regulationof shale gas over the past six years.

“We have to recognise that much work has been done but there is still more work need to be done by government and industry.”

  • The meeting also discussed community benefit schemes proposed by the shale gas industry. Report coming soon on this and other key points.

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52 replies »

  1. Ten pads per 100 Square Kilometres is one pad (and never all at once) per 10 square kilometres, or one per 3.86 sq miles. And if memory serves Igas were talking more like 3 or 4 net pads per area since not the entire block is likely to be either prospective or available for drilling.

    An interesting proposal from Holingrake and Menzies. I’d say the majority of voters would say “Is that it? Is that what all the fuss has been about? So what?”

    • Yes Nick that’s about a 2 mile separation on average – it equates to about 120 pads in PEDL 165. And when we suggested that to get just 12 TCF out of PEDL 165 Cuadrilla would need at least 100 pads we were told we were scaremongering.

      Do you really believe that the “majority of voters” in the Fylde or Yorkshire have any idea that their MPs are proposing a limit of just 2 miles between each well pad?

      • There’s a handy marthmatical formula A=πr2. http://www.basic-mathematics.com/area-of-a-circle-calculator.html

        Use what ever number you like but if you say radius (length of a lateral) is 5.6 km for example, the area of the circle is 98 sq km. Or the size of one block. There are horizontal wells of well over 10 km length in Wytch Farm, North Sea, Canada, Qatar and Russia.
        An example of a recent well in Ohio: http://marcellusdrilling.com/2016/06/halliburton-fracked-eclipses-3-5-mile-purple-hayes-utica-well/

        i’m still scratching my head to figure out the economic reason why someone wouldn’t use the least amount of well pads. Any answers?

      • If we use average EURs from the Marcellus and 40 wells per pad, we get somewhere between 22 and 24 TCF for 120 pads, John. Quite a lot of gas. Where would you have the country source that energy instead? A wind farm would require somewhere between 250k-300k acres, much greater expense, much greater opportunity cost of land, and back up power. Is that your solution, or is it something else? Please divulge your plan if you will!

        • That is to thus the technical term, a whole shed load of gas. Easily enough to replace the 0.5 TCF a year we currently use from LNG from Qatar that is at least 20% more CO2 producing than shale gas. That figure comes from the Committee on Climate Change BTW.

          But there is another issue. What if, as so many here hope, the gas isn’t there? What if for various geological reasons it doesn’t commercially flow. Even I admit that there is a risk it won’t albeit small – 20% or so.

          Then we have wasted years best spent on other sources: nuclear, coal, imports, CCS, Russian gas, US LNG, wind farms, Norwegian Arctic gas fields, solar and what we should be doing all along anyway, more efficiency.

          It never ceases to surprise how desperate some activists are to prove the industry wrong on the gas potential, at the same time as they are so desperately fighting us for the chance to prove them right.

          Let’s see if its there or not. Then we can have a debate on some actual facts and if there are 1, 2 or 200 well pads per block, that is the time to use the planning process to block them. If it’s 200, I’ll be happy to sign a petition myself.

          • So Nick – with your A=πr2 argument you appear to be furiously agreeing that this pretence that “limiting” development to “just” 10 pads per 100 km2 is nothing but a political charade really. Thank you.

          • Do any shale gas supporters actually know where the gas they use in their houses come from?

            I will spell it out as simply as I can

            2014-BP statistics review of world energy 2015

            Britain produced 3500 thousand cubic feet per day (mmscfds). Home grown and supporting over 375,000 jobs.We also exported home grown gas.
            Britain consumed 6500 mmscfds
            Britain Imported (average) 1100 mmscfd in the form of LNG
            Britain imported (net average) 2200 mmscfd through pipelines
            79% from Norway (our long term secure energy partners)
            20% from Netherlands
            1% from other sources

            The future of shale has been debated by the House of Lords Energy Select Committee. The overall conclusion was that North Sea gas is
            being crippled through the current tax regime and wind fall taxes when there are no wind falls. Production taxes of between 60% and 80% whilst shale is being offered 30%.
            Offer 30% to our long established Mighty North Sea Industry and output will increase, new investment will open up new fields and our other 40,000 plus skilled offshore workers who have been laid off through the crippling tax regime will get back to work.

            So next time you take a shower, or turn on your heating Nick try and remember where your gas comes from and that the best way to continue using your appliances is to look to the North Sea where the real gas energy security is.

            A reminder of the economic burden of shale gas

            • John, some additional info in the links below:


              Still a very attractive place to invest. UK gas has been steadily declining since 2000. Industry sources are predicting 120,000 direct and indirect job losses in the UK sector of the North Sea by end 2016.

              UK gas production forecast for the next 5 years (steady decline):

              Click to access OGA_production_projections_-_February_2016.pdf

              Further into the future (continuing decline unless unconventionals exploited):


              Whichever way you look at it UK North Sea gas production has declined significantly and will continue to decline. We either increase imports (most likely) or produce onshore unconventionals (unlikely) to make up the increasing shortfall. Any additional North Sea discoveries will not have a lot of impact as they are likely to be small.

              • ….or more renewables, insulation and curbing waste through smart meters…

                Remember, every day clean energy sources are putting into the mix. For every day this happens, less fossil fuel is needed. This is happening today, will happen tomorrow, Tuesday, Wednesday……..

                • Is this why we may be building a 3.2GW nuclear power station at Hinkley? Because we don’t need it? Personally I don’t think we should build it – either 3 smaller proven nukes or even better, 6 off 650MW gas power stations. What is the renewables alternative (bearing in mind that it is for base load and wre need a LF of around 90% plus? It would be an incredible amount of wind turbines ( twice the capacity due to half the load factor if offshore turbines, even more onshore turbines) and how would they be backed up? Also they would take even longer to install than it will take to build Hinkley C. Insulation can only do so much with Victorian housing. Smart meters – my hill walking friend just had one installed and then uninstalled the same day as the supplier didn’t realise there was no mobile phone signal where he lived. And our net migration is increasing by 300,000 a year?

        • And if we use average EURs from the USA As whole as the IoD did you’d get about 12 TCF. Using just the 3-4 pads a year development schedule you suggested on the Yorkshire Post site yesterday (when you were trying to claim there would be no problem with waste disposal as so few wells would be drilled each year) it would take 50 years to extract even that 12 tcf. And you call that an energy plan? Oh dear!

          • Yes, but the data the IoD used was very stale. Look at it closely and you will see that it relies in a study published in 2010. The data I reference was from a study published in 2016, John. And just to be clear, as I have previously demonstrated, the US has been making enormous strides in well productivity each year, so six years is a big difference. But it’s much longer than just six years, because the IoD data looks at some of the first shale fields to be developed, which would have data going back 30+ years. My report only looks at the more recently developed Marcellus, which gives a good read for what current technology is yielding.

  2. Hollinrake has stated in the past both in the press and on radio that Third Energy had assured him there would be six miles between sites – and if they did not he would hold them to account. He also stipulated a one mile setback from villages, towns etc. Now we are talking about 2 miles and 400m setbacks, which are non mandatory. And this Hollinrake has the audacity to say he has worked tirelessly for his constituents – it doesn’t look like it – worked tirelessly on behalf of industry more like. Note Third Energy want to frack existing sites, which will mean fracking 200m from housing – this industry doesn’t give a damn about the public and neither does Hollinrake or Menzies.

    • Agree re Hollinrake duplicity. But there is no setback. Even a 400m setback would kill Cuadrilla’s plans, and as you say. The government has consistently refused to impose setback, and – worse – has said it would not countenance setback distances imposed by local authorities.It has failed in its obligation to respond to EU recommendation to impose setback. There’s a surprise.

  3. Also no National setback for wind farms / wind turbines. We spent many years trying to get minimum setbacks for turbines (the taller the turbine the greater the setback). We even got a Bill introduced at the House of Lords but as far as I know it has fizzled out after two readings. However some LPAs have imposed minimum setback distances for turbines. Allerdale includes a 800m setback distance in their Local Plan. This has been approved by the Planning Inspector to be in accordance with National Planning Policy (see Issue 5 discussion starting on Page 16 of the Inspector’s report linked below). So if this is okay for turbines why should there not be minimum setback distances for oil & gas sites? LPAs could include setback guidance in their local plans as long as they do not contradict national planning policy. The HOLs Bill is also referred to in the Inspector’s report.

    Click to access Inspectors_Report.pdf

      • So why not request your LPAs to include a minimum setback distance for shale gas development sites in their Local Plans? There should be plenty of time for this as it is all at the exploration stage at present.

        • Any set back distances agreed in local plans for shale would presume acceptance by the communities. I don’t think this will happen.

          Set back for large turbines is sensible if locals need this. Maybe more people should take the opportunity to install solar panels on their roof which are less intrusive?

          However, bottom line, according to recent surveys, most people prefer renewables than dirty shale…..

        • Hi Paul people have and North Yorkshire County Council realised that if they allow a mile – you could not deliver fracking and I suspect a half a mile set back would be similar. The UK is far more densely populated, as you will appreciate, than the US. The NYCC LPA appear to be shying away from the issue.

    • Ha ha, got to get ‘set-backs’ for those evil Co2 and methane producing wind turbines. I don’t know what world you live in, but it doesn’t seem to have any concern for future generations. Theres no need for the intellectualising of a simple issue of power and profits now, or a sustainable future for our children. Debating the number of wells completely misses the point. Those fighting against the fracking snouts in the trough are acting on the warnings and the actual alarming and unmanageable events arising from climate change.

      • Mike – another brilliant comment contributing to the discussion. Why not explain to us how we can do without natural gas for the next 30 plus years? Methane is methane and we need it, and so do our children, it doesn’t make any difference to me where it comes from as long as there is enough available. The topic being discussed was setback limits for shale gas well sites. Perhaps you don’t see this as something that is needed. Clearly if it doesn’t go ahead setback limits are irrelevant. Others appear to want them in case it does proceed. You would be surprised how much I know about renewables having taken the time to study them in detail and the pros and cons of each type, and direct experience of wind and hydro schemes. And they are not anywhere near being able to provide 50% of our electricity and heating requirements. But if you know something most of us don’t please share it with us.

        And if you have a look at any windfarm planning application you will find similar objections from people who live close to the proposed sites to shale or conventional oil & gas applications. Nimbys maybe, but it is a natural reaction to any development. We have similar objections to housing developments around here (North Lancs).

  4. It doesn’t matter how many or how few fracking sites go ahead. They will destroy my life and livelihood. I have no say in what happens. My cows, my farm, my water, the air I breathe and the food I produce and eat count for nothing. The evidence is easy to find in the USA and Australia.

    • Last night I attended a showing of Ian R. Crane’s film, “Voices from the Gasfields”, made in Queensland. Everyone whose area stands to be exploited by fracking, no matter how many or how few wells are threatened/promised, no matter how big the “bribes”, MUST SEE THIS FILM. It is heart-breaking.

      • aeh1 ,

        Ian Crane is a good guy but what have shallow coal seam gas wells in Qld got to do with extraction of shale gas in Qld, Victoria , the NT or closer to home Lancashire ?

        The extraction process between CSG and shale gas is dissimilar .

        The shale formations are down at 7,000 ft plus and coal seam gas typically at less than 1,000 ft .

        Farming and gas extraction coexist perfectly well in many parts of the world including where frac’ing is routine .

        Farming has done and continues to do a lot more damage to land than gas extraction ever has .

        • Well then, let’s hope that runaway climate change caused by burning or leaking all this gas puts an end to these appallingly damaging farms. It is one of the possibilities if we don’t leave most of the fossil fuels in the ground.

      • “Voices from the Gaslands is a series of short videos of people whose lives and businesses have been damaged by the coal seam gas industry in Queensland.” Similar to Coal Bed Methane. Not UK shale gas. But who cares about a 6,000 ft?

      • Crane: the 9/11 denier? Crane who said there was going to be a fake alien invasion at the 2012 London Olympics to set up a world government. Give me a break

        • Nick Grearly at the Blackpool conference.

          I understand why he might be irate. The conference was the ‘ Getting ready for UK shale gas’ supply chain 2014. A very glossy brochure was handed out but it omits to say how much shale would cost to produce and how much it could be sold for. There must have been some very awkward questions from those in the Audience who were thinking of getting involved.
          It could also be that Nick had got wind that Lord Browne was resigning from the UK shale industry and was to work offshore for the Russians. Confusing times for shale followers and promoters.

          • And since 2014 most rational people now comprehend that we must leave most of this fossil fuel in the ground to avoid the worst scenarios of climate-change. The technical details of extraction may be fascinating (not contents of injection fluids or the threats to freshwater) but there will be an almighty great fight in Europe to stop this industry in its tracks. I suggest that fracking personnel start retraining in the much more fascinating clean, green renewables business.

        • Yes, do take a break and watch it. You might learn something. Whether or not Crane has done a ‘David Icke’ since then I don’t know but that was a well made documentary. The ‘voices’ are genuine – from those affected (hardly any of Crane in it) and there’s a lot of direct observation – impossible to stage.

          • Sorry – that was meant to target Nick Graly’s comment about Cranes ‘Voices from the Gasfield’. Does Nick Graly = Nick Grearly John P?

  5. Given the ever more urgent need to leave fossil fuels in the ground I find the inane discussion on here, focussing on the no. of wellheads permissible, is verging on an autistic lack of reality. I rely on the reality that gov. ministers who make decisions, have children and some concern for their future well-being.

    • Mike – still waiting for your alternative energy proposal that doesn’t require natural gas for any electricity generation or heating for the next 30 years or so for the UK? You appear to comment on a lot of blogs / newspaper articles but I haven’t seen your proposal to meet demand which “leaves all our fossil fuels in the ground” anywhere?

      • And I’m still waiting for your comprehending that if we continue to burn fossil fuel for short-term convenience, comfort and profit we push ocean acidification and global climate conditions to extremes where agriculture and human life are imperilled. This has already begun – if you cannot acknowledge this, you should not be writing about energy policy.

        • Mike – I acknowledge all the above. I have always said our climate has always changed and will continue to do so. And I believe gas is part of our solution for the next 30 years (as do most credible entities including our National Grid).

          Please explain your alternative plan for our future electricity, heating, and transport needs which does not use fossil fuels? If you don’t have a plan / viable alternative then perhaps it is yourself that needs to refrain from commenting on these issues? Who is disputing ocean acidification? I see this first hand as a scuba diver – but I also see the reefs where I have been diving for the past 15 years adapting to climate change and sea temperature rises – because they have no other option. The biggest threat to these reefs over the last 15 years is the Chinese insatiable demand for shark fins and sea cucumbers plus an influx of recreational dive boats from Egypt post terrorist attacks in Egypt, boats which have no idea how to behave in fragile ecosystems.

          We need solutions not just continually being told it is happening, we are doomed, etc. etc. You also need to figure out what to do about the increasing number of people on the planet. Good luck with that.

        • Fracking will not deal with the “keeping the lights on” or any energy shortages we have now – fact. The industry has admitted that to make any meaningful contribution to UK gas consumption it will take 10 to 15 years.

          In 10 to 15 years battery and other technologies will also have been developed and improved.

          Just because a change is difficult it doesn’t make it right not make that change.

          The excuses will and are disappearing – and the global direction of power generation is away from fossil fuels.



          • Hi KT, UK fracking is irrelevant – what I am saying is we will continue to need gas for a long time to come. What you are saying is something else will come along? No doubt it will, but not likely to be of the scale needed before 2040. And the other thing I am saying is that current renewable technology won’t do it in most countries i.e. those that have large populations and don’t have the geography for large scale drop head hydro. But I think you agree with this, you are hoping for a game changer. Hopefully this will come sooner than I believe, both in storage and large scale consistent 24hr generation. We shall have to wait and see. Meanwhile we and the US will continue to burn gas, Germany lignite coal, France nuclear etc…..

            • ..but in the meantime, wind and solar generation has again reduced the burning of fossil fuels; and tomorrow, the day after, the day after that……

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