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. It’s noticeable that the industry and its supporters are talking about the number of well-PADS, not the number of wells. Each pad could potentially have up to 40 wells on them – so 10 well-pads could result in 400 wells, with all the consequent HGV traffic, air pollution, noise, drilling 24/7, fracking, fugitive methane, etc. that goes with it.
    Don’t be fooled by well-pad numbers, therefore – it’s number of wells that’s important. No wonder Third Energy’s David Robottom doesn’t want to ‘waste the government’s time’ on legislation limiting the number of well-sites – or wells. Why would a law limiting the number of well-pads or wells be a ‘waste of the government’s time’? Isn’t this what government should do.
    What comes across most strongly in this report is that even the pro-fracking MPs like Kevin Hollinrake and Mark Menzies seem to be getting frustrated with the arrogant attitude of the fracking companies. Mr Menzies’ comment saying, “If we do not get something like this, you guys are stuffed,” seems particularly telling.
    Fracking companies just want carte blanche to do what they like, and resist any attempt to limit number of well-sites, number of wells, setback distances from homes and schools – anything that might hinder them in the future.

    • What an inane argument you make, Chris. You complain about the industrialization of the landscape linked to fracking, and to back your point you call on the fact that advances in technology have allowed for massive improvements in efficiencies such that 40+ wells can be drilled from a single pad. Do you see the inherent contradiction in your espoused position? On the one hand you are admitting that from a single site, operators are able to extract more and more energy, bolstering the energy density argument on the pro-fracking side. On the other hand you are complaining that it will mean more HGVs and a longer duration of operation. Is your point that you would rather the operators accomplish the same over six different sites? You favor wind turbines, Chris. Do you have any concept of the impact they create on an energy-equivalent basis versus a single, highly efficient gas well-pad? How many HGVs, how much concrete, how much land spoiled for a 1,000 turbine wind farm that would generate an equivalent (if intermittent and expensive) amount of energy? And while the gas drilling/fracking rigs might hang around the neighborhood for a year or two in a 40 well set-up, the wind turbines would be there forever, Chris. How do you factor that into your analysis.

      I don’t think you give a whole lot of thought to what you write, Chris. You just like to promote hype as you did when you implied that the Hopkins studies concluded there were causal links between premature births and migraines and fracking. No one with any intelligence is going to buy your shallow arguments, Chris.

  2. And on another matter, re the ‘ludicrous’ number of wells that are sometimes mentioned by anti-fracking groups, these are all based on things that the industry has actually said.

    For example, check out this trade ad from INEOS on a previous Drill or Drop posting shown in the fourth paragraph of the above report – click on the red word ‘document’. This trade ad for Seismic Survey Contractor says that INEOS are planning “up to 30 well-sites” and “12-14 Wells per Site – Up to 396 Wells’.

    These are INEOS’s figures, not the anti-fracking community’s. And to blame this ad on an ‘administrative error’ as INEOS have tried to do, despite this ad being on their website for six days and presumably having gone through a number of sign-offs in-house before it was posted, just underlies the untrustworthiness of the company.

    At a government inquiry on 10th March 2015, John Dewar also said that Third Energy would need 19 well-pads, with between ten and fifty wells per pad. Since then he has denied he said this, even though it is on film on the Parliament website.

    And they wonder why nobody trusts the shale gas industry?

  3. Thirty well sites was the figure Tom Pickering gave me at their PR do in the Milton rooms in May, and a mere three hundred metre from residential areas. Kevin Hollinrake assured me that would not happen, so I concur the industry are arrogant and deliberately vague about their true intentions. We will not be taken in by such trucks as these.

  4. If I may add to Chris’s comments from the Fylde. Cuadrilla have for a long time boasted about 80 to 100 wellpads in their PEDL165 licence area, and claimed they could drill 10 to 12 wells per pad with up to four horizintals from each vertical. This again equates to an ambition of around 400 wells per 100 sq km. It is important to realise what this means. With horizontals radiating from pads in all directions almost every square inch of the Fylde would be drilled under.

    And this is what Menzies and Hollinrake are happy to accept? Were they worried the density would be higher? How COULD it be higher?

    What this demonstrates is that the MPs have no real grasp of what would be necessary in terms of number of wells (variously estimated between 30,000 and 120,000) to realise the industry’s false ambition of economic benefit or energy security. It will never happen. These MPs, who mess around to try and persuade their constituents they are doing something (Just WHAT regulation improvements have there been in six years, Mr Menzies?) are themselves a major part of the problem. Either they are fracking-illiterate or they are ploughing a duplicitous furrow.

  5. Correct. This is a schematic of how Cuadrilla want to pepper their licence area with wellpads. With 10 or more pads per 100 sq km, spaced on average 3km apart, and with horizontals stretching up to 3km, how is it possible to get more? The surface number of pads is not important. What is important is every field being fracked under. If farmers realised the implications this industry wouldn’t stand a chance. If politicians understood the figures, it wouldn’t stand a chance.

  6. Perhaps Kevin and Mark should have raised the findings of the CCC report and double checked the lads met all 3 tests:

    The CCC concluded that shale gas would breach the nation’s targets for emissions cuts unless these three key tests were passed (as described on the Drill or Drop report):

    Well development, production and decommissioning emissions must be strictly limited. Emissions must be tightly regulated and closely monitored in order to ensure rapid action to address leaks.
    Gas consumption must remain in line with carbon budgets. UK unabated fossil energy consumption must be reduced over time within levels advised by the CCC to be consistent with the carbon budgets. This means that UK shale gas production must displace imported gas rather than increasing domestic consumption.
    Accommodating shale gas production emissions within carbon budgets. Additional production emissions from shale gas wells will need to be offset through reductions elsewhere in the UK economy, such that the overall effort to reduce emissions is sufficient to meet carbon budgets.

  7. It does rather seem a though Messrs Menzies and Hollinrake are setting up a nice little patsy for the industry under the guise of “protecting” their constituents. 10 pads per 100 km2 in 1200 km2 (the size of PDL 165) is 120 pads. When it was suggested that PEDL 165 might be peppered with just 100 pads there were screams of outrage from the industry and its supporters, but here we are now having 20% MORE than that proposed as a limit.

    As has been pointed out with this density implying distances between wells of just over 2 miles and the industry claiming to want to drill wells 3-5 miles it is hard to imagine how the could conceive of siting more pads than 10 per 100 km2, so talk of a limit here is meaningless. I suspect both Messrs Holinrake and Menzies are more than well aware of this and are trying (rather unsuccessfully) to play a political game.

    I wonder how many remember Mr Hollinrake saying he thought 6 miles (not 3 km) needed to be the minimum distance between pads?


    I wonder how many recall Mark Menzies saying at a public meeting in 2012 that he could not support the development of 80 wells (wells not well pads) in the Fylde?

    As to Mr Menzies and his enormous advances” in legislation and regulation of shale gas over the past six years”. Does he mean advances in favour of the industry perhaps?

    • Has Mr Hollinrake, Mr Menzies or anyone in the industry or Government explained what will happen if they don’t find a convenient, willing farmer or landowner every couple of miles? Many farmers I know are dead against fracking, however high the bribe. They’ve already changed the Ancient Law of Trespass to allow the frackers to drill under our property. I await the next ‘relaxation’ of the law, to allow the frackers to compulsorily acquire land. They are already doing this by the back door when landowners refuse access for seismic testing, the gas companies threaten them with court action which results in the landowner paying the costs and still having to give the industry access in the end.

  8. Do we actually believe what these politicians say or do? They set up committee after committee consultations after consultation to make it look like they care and they look important in their role.

  9. Apparently, the 6 mile distance between well pads was an ‘agreement’ reached by Mr Hollnrake and Third Energy after their meeting in June last year.
    Mr Hollnrake was also quoted following his return from Pensylvannia, saying a distance of 1 mile from homes and schools should also be imposed. When challenged after this distance had been breached by the planning permission granted at Kirby Misperton, which is a mere 3-400m from dwellings, he was quoted as saying ‘well, we do have to live in the real world’….Does that mean one where regulations can be ignored when it is convenient, or where planning permission is granted before the regulations are drafted?.. I would certainly like to know what world we will be living in after we have been completely sold off to the oil and gas industry, facilitated by those we elected to represent us.

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