Regulation

Green light for first E Mids shale gas plan – but with 40 conditions and a restoration bond

Misson Springs mapNottinghamshire councillors have approved the first shale gas application in the East Midlands.

At a meeting of the county council’s planning committee, members voted 7-4 in favour of IGas’s plans for two exploratory shale gas wells at Springs Road, Misson. Click here for who voted how on the committee. Full result of vote here

They responded to local concerns about the company’s financial viability by requiring IGas to pay a bond that would cover the cost of site restoration.

The committee also added requirements for a local liaison committee, independent checks on water levels in a neighbouring nature reserve and stricter air quality and noise monitoring.

The approval is subject to 40 conditions and a legal agreement which requires lorries visiting the site to follow a defined route and makes IGas responsible for any road damage they cause.

Live updates from the meeting

IGas welcomes decision

john-blaymires

John Blaymires, chief operating officer of IGas, said afterwards:

“Obviously we are pleased with the decision. We take our responsibility very seriously. We regard ourselves as custodians of the site and we will endeavour to fulfil the wishes and desires of the planning committee and the local residents.”

He predicted drilling could start in the second half of next year. The permission did not include fracking but IGas has said it may apply later to use this technique.

“Bad day for Misson”

Opponent of the plans said they were disappointed with the outcome. They have been particularly worried about the impact on wildlife in the Misson Training Area Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), 125m away.

jayne-watsonJayne Watson, of Misson Parish Council, said

“This is a bad day for Mission. It is a big decision that has been made: the first shale well site in the East Midlands.

“If they can do this here, so close to the SSSI, they can do it anywhere.”

She did not rule out a challenge to the decision.

“It does not end here. It is not over. It is the end of the first stage. We are a long way from a frack.”

“Threat to wildlife”

Discussions on the application centred on the impact operations would have on the SSSI. This is the largest wetland fen in the area and home to all five species of British owls, as well as other unusual and threatened birds, plants and insects.

At an earlier meeting of the committee In October, councillors heard that a restrictive covenant on the SSSI prevented any noisy or noxious activity that would disturb wildlife.

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, which owns the SSSI, argued that this was a material planning consideration and councillors should take it into account when making their decision. Friends of the Earth warned that in approving the application, the council could be allowing IGas to commit illegal acts.

The meeting was adjourned until today for the committee to take legal advice. The council’s legal officer, Rachel Clack, said the covenant was a private matter and should not be considered. She told the committee it was not the council’s concern if IGas could not implement the permission because of the covenant.

At today’s meeting councillors were also given a seven-page letter from the vice-president of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, retired planning barrister Graham Machin. He challenged he council’s interpretation of national and local planning policy on the threat to the SSSI.

Planning officers, who recommended approval, had acknowledged there would be an impact on wildlife. But they said these would be outweighed by the benefits of the development. The officers said they placed what they called “great weight” on the fact that Natural England had not objected to the application”. And the officers stressed that Natural England believed any impact would be temporary.

But Mr Machin said the “proper application” of planning policy compelled that the application be refused. He said:

“The grant of planning permission for this development would set at nought the Precautionary Principle and subvert the raft of policies designed to deflect harmful development away protected nature conservation sites”.

Officer report “flawed”

janice-bradleyAfter the meeting, Janice Bradley, the trust’s head of conservation, said:

“We still think there were flaws in the officers’ report in the interpretation of the National Planning Policy Framework and in Natural England’s view of temporary damage. There is a difference between temporary in duration of the development and temporary in terms of damage.”

She added that the Trust believed Natural England’s concerns about the development had not been fully relayed to the committee. She said:

“It is a shame that we are now in the situation where we will test this technology right next to one of our SSSIs.”

“Huge step for the community”

misson-anti-fracking-sign-2

Jayne Watson, of Misson Parish Council, said she was disappointed that concerns raised by councillors during the debate did not count as material considerations in the decision.  Several councillors had said they wanted more information about how IGas had chosen the Mission site when alternatives would not have damaged the SSSI.

Asked whether the village would consider a judicial review of the decision, Mrs Watson said:

“That is a huge step for a community to take. We are not saying we are prepared to go down that line. We need to go home and think about what we might do in the future. We need a little more time to think about this.”

She said fighting the application for the past two years had been exhausting.

“You feel so powerless in what you can and cannot do in the planning system. But you have to try.

“It seems that whatever you throw at the planning officers they come back with a response that makes everything seem fine.

“As far as I can say we are not happy. We are not convinced.”

She had this message for IGas:

“The community will ensure that IGas do what they say they are going to do: that they carry out operations with best available techniques. We will ensure that the Environment Agency and Nottinghamshire County Council also do their job. We will enforce the conditions.”

“Proposal should have been refused”

Chris Crean, of Friends of the Earth, said:

“This proposal failed to comply with many requirements and should have been refused for the negative impacts it will have on the wider environment, including the protected wildlife site of the SSSI.

“Just a couple of weeks after the Paris Climate Accord came into force pursuing extreme methods to get oil and gas out of the ground is completely wrong.

“We are also really concerned that after a six week adjournment the council still assumes it does not have to take account of a restrictive covenant that exists to protect the nature reserve which would prevent IGas even drilling at the Misson site.”

Brian Davey, of Frack Free Nottinghamshire, was concerned about whether the conditions could be enforced. He urged the council to be open about the details including the restoration bond, so that local people could be involved.

Asked whether today’s decision opened up Misson to fracking he said:

“Had it been for fracking it would have been opposed. Virtually everyone on that committee would not have wanted fracking.

“The real dangerous of this situation is if it ever did get to fracking it would be impossible for the committee to vote against it.”

IGas ambitions for Misson

John Blaymires was asked by journalists about his ambitions for the site. He said:

“The purpose of this application is to drill exploratory boreholes to confirm our understanding that there is shale rock beneath this site and that it potentially contains gas.

“First we need to prove that and establish that is the case.

“If the results from those wells, once we’ve analysed them, are encouraging then we would seek – and we’ve always been clear about that – the logical thing then would be to seek consent to apply to test that to establish whether or not gas could be produced at commercial rates.”

Mr Blaymires said a producing site would probably have 10 wells that would produce for 20 years. If all the drilling was done in one go, he said, all that would be left of the site for 20 years would be 10 wellheads, each measuring 8ft tall. It would be less intrusive than other activities in the area, he said.

DrillOrDrop asked him how a 20-year production site could be squared with Natural England’s approval of the application on the basis that impacts on the SSSI would be temporary.

Mr Blaymires replied:

 “We are talking about an exploratory site here. Whether this becomes a development, full-time producing site, we’re jumping a long way ahead. Where I’m talking about development sites, assuming we approve the commerciality of shale gas, those sites would be there for 20 years. I’m not necessarily, specifically talking about the Misson site. That is subject to a raft of other issues that would have to be addressed”.

Asked about the restoration bond, Mr Blaymires said:

“We are very well funded. We have $30m in the bank.”

He said four companies with financial interests in the site would share responsibility for the cost of restoration.

On the covenant, he said

“I hope that the wildlife trust can recognise that we can be beneficial.

“There are ways in which we can support them. We have our own community fund where we support local communities. That, for example, could be areas where I think we could find ways of helping to benefit that site.”

He said monitoring of water levels would help understanding of the ecology.

On the choice of Misson, Mr Blaymires denied the site had been selected largely because it could be easily secured against protesters. He said it was further away from Misson village than the alternatives and because there had been industrial activity in the area.

He had this message for the community, Mr Blaymires said:

“Local people have our promise. We are very experienced. We have operated oil and gas facilities for 30 years safely and responsibly. We understand their concerns. We commit ourselves to working through the liaison committee and being a good part of the community. We will operate this site safely and environmentally responsibly.”

  • The IGas share price closed up 0.5p at 12p.
  • A second IGas application for shale gas exploration at Tinker Lane, near Blyth, is due to be considered by Nottinghamshire County Council next month (December 2016)

This report is part of DrillOrDrop’s Rig Watch project. Rig Watch receives funding from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. More details here

86 replies »

  1. While of course it is bad news for the anti-frack mafia as more and more drilling is approved, this is not what bothers them most. No, they are most threatened by the fact that once there are operating fracked wells in the country, and they are operated safely, they do not know how they will continue to bamboozle the public with lies and misdirection about the operations. They can continue to tell people that fracking will give them cancer, that people will die, that the air will turn black, that large earthquakes will rock the country, that the entire countryside will be industrialized, that babies will be born deformed, and that everyone will suffer from headaches, but when the general population witnesses the boring truth of a well pad, and the lack of any dead bodies, they will begin to see through the ruse.

    So, you see, this is the real threat to anti-frackers. The lies will have to stop (or perhaps not, but they will be ignored if they continue) which means the money will stop flowing, which means most of the anti-frackers will move on to become anti-somethingelse.

    Toodles!

  2. On a more adult note than Peeny’s post, it’s interesting to see that the council felt forced to include that bond for abandonment – they clearly knew that nobody else was going to do that in spite of iGas’s interesting financial position. It’s not as if the need for these bonds hasn’t been brought up frequently, but none of the regulators seem to take the issue seriously.

    • The bond issue is being considered by Government. An entity who wants to specialise in abandonment / restoration / environmental bonds is currently lobbying Government and talking to companies about their scheme. But I believe today’s I-Gas bond wil only cover site restoration – not the well or any future well related problems?

      There is an ongoing issue with this in Dorset apparently – Wytch Farm production licence extension, Perenco and former Operator BP.

  3. Testimonials – they’re in the thousands now. What idiocy leads pro frackers to suspect that people have got nothing better to do with their lives than sit around and make these things up .

    .. Here’s a fairly typical, recent story (one that you’d call lies Peeny and that Paul Tresto would call anecdotal BS):

    “Ambient air testing by a certified environmental consultant detected elevated levels of benzene, methane, chloroform, butane, propane, toluene and xylene—compounds associated with drilling and fracking, and also with cancers, birth defects and organ damage. Her well tested high for sulfates, chromium, chloride and strontium; her blood tested positive for acetone, plus the heavy metals arsenic (linked with skin lesions, cancers and cardiovascular disease) and germanium (linked with muscle weakness and skin rashes). Both she and her husband, who works in oilfield services, have recently lost crowns and fillings from their teeth; tooth loss is associated with radiation poisoning and high selenium levels, also found in the Schilkes’ water.

    State health and agriculture officials acknowledged Schilke’s air and water tests but told her she had nothing to worry about. Her doctors, however, diagnosed her with neurotoxic damage and constricted airways. “I realized that this place is killing me and my cattle,” Schilke says. She began using inhalers and a nebulizer, switched to bottled water, and quit eating her own beef and the vegetables from her garden. (Schilke sells her cattle only to buyers who will finish raising them outside the shale area, where she presumes that any chemical contamination will clear after a few months.) “My health improved,” Schilke says, “but I thought, ‘Oh my God, what are we doing to this land?’”
    (extracted from the link I gave above)

    As you can see the state and industry officials had been bought off – there’s no admission of culpability and any readings or recordings that would lead to claims are not registered. There’s a well oiled system for doing this.

  4. It is most entertaining listening to both sides blinded by the facts..
    Fact 1/ man is destructive
    Fact 2/ there are better ways out there to create energy,
    Fact 3/ but theres not as much money to be made jumping the gun for the fat cats..
    Fact 4/ we have to do the best in our given situation,
    Fact 5/ reusable enegy is the unicorn in the story.. Would be beutiful to see but not realistic at present..
    Energy demand increases as quick as we put turbines up, also the energy used to build turbines out ways itself by the time it breaks, then theres this pos aspect.. Imagine enough turbines dotted around the uk or even the world to power itself, do you know what effect that has on the circulation of air/wind around the globe?? Could it get to the point where it just stops as the wind energy has been used up by all the turbines.. Food for thought..
    Fact 6/ dependant on other countries for there energy or resources, does it not matter how they create them resources? Is there process 10x’s worse than anything the uk does.. Hi light “dependant” thats never a good thing,
    Fact 7/ nuclear.. if theres ever a speedy way for man to cause its own destruction i imagine dumping that stuff in the groud for 50year or so whould be the way to go..
    Fact 8/ then theres fracking, it has its dangers but which of the above ways dosent? at present i think its a step in the right direction until the next wave of inventinons or process’s that are safer and more efficient come along.
    So theres my dumbed down way of looking at things.. Thats not blinded by the nitty gritty democratic bs..
    As for us, humans that is, we will never be happy until we’ve bled the worl dry.. We will never all agree on the same things, but if we worked together rather than cause conflict we might just stand a chance…
    Until that big meteor comes and smashes things up somewhat then we’ll wish we worked together

    • ‘reusable energy is the unicorn in the story.. Would be beautiful to see but not realistic at present’

      I have to disagree with this. Our grid can take 50% intermittent renewable s without major upheaval. We have nowhere near that amount.

      There is no practical reason why we could not increase now to 50%.

      It is a matter of political will. Nothing more
      .
      This detailed study highlights the achievable energy and it’s restrictions from the UK offshore.

      http://www.ppaenergy.co.uk/web-resources/resources/467ac5b8919.pdf

      .

      • John – in Q2 0216 total renewable capacity installed UK was 32.5 GW. Total theoretical installed capacity all generators was 73.7 GW. So renewables are 44% of our installed generating capacity – not far off your 50% (assuming you refer to capacity not actual output). But this winter the 73.7 GW is derated to 55GW – primarily because of intermittency and low load factors (output) of wind. I know you have seen this before but this is important. The more wind installed, the lower the wind EFC (assuming everything else stays the same). To maintain the same EFC with additional wind we will need more CCGT – gas.

        The de-rating factor for wind is based on its equivalent firm capacity (EFC). The EFC is a measure of its overall contribution to security of supply over an entire winter.
        The de-rating factors for conventional generation are calculated based on historic availability on high demand days during the winter peak period.

        Assumed availability
        CCGT
        88%
        Coal and biomass
        87%
        Hydro
        86%
        Nuclear
        84%
        OCGT
        94%
        Pumped storage
        96%
        Wind EFC
        21%

        This data is from the National Grid Winter Forecast 2016-17. Renewables produced just under 25% of our electricity in Q2 2016.

  5. GREAT NEWS! Another nail in the coffin for the Anti Fracking liar’s! We have lot’s of them in Balcombe.Nowt but scaremongering lie’s come out of their mouth’s! Asthma,Cancer etc caused by Fracking.ROFLMAO. I heard it was fracking that caused Brexit and many normal folk to vote for Trump. Any protestors at Grangemouth recently when first IMPORTED Shale Gas arrived at the port from USA? NO..they were just grateful for the fracked Gas to generate Heating & Electric power…hypocrites!

    • “NO..they were just grateful for the fracked Gas to generate Heating & Electric power…hypocrites!”

      … or they might have been if it hadn’t been a shipment of ethane to be fed into “crackers” that convert the gas into ethylene, used in the production of a range of plastic products.

      How does it go – ah yes ROFLMAO.

      Come on Malcolm – I think you’d stick to betting on horses 🙂

    • [Edited by moderator] Malcolm. Try working through my quoted source above and think of something intelligent to say about it if you can. Then bear in mind that there are now thousands of independent sources – with no affiliations to any protest or environmental groups – making their own observations and finding similar things. Also why would solid institutions come up with long range peer reviewed studies that are confirming the risks to health and environment that so many people have had to experience first hand ?

  6. Having read the above comments it seems Penny is able to provide evidenced rationale as opposed to incorrect hearsay. No one on here seems capable of challenging his post constructively.

    (edited by moderator)

  7. Not true? Tell the BBC. Of course you will you stop driving a car etc to stop the pollution you are causing,or are you just like others? A hypocrite! Strange world innit…World Leaders FLY to CLIMATE CHANGE meeting’s all over the world using ton’s of aviation fuel and causing more pollution.

    • Why would I tell the BBC that it’s not true that you have nothing else to add Malcolm?

      As to the rest you need to think about how major changes are initiated and not get fixated on scoring silly points. Oh, and learn to use apostrophes properly.

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