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.
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.”
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”.
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.