Regulation

Final chance for West Sussex to toughen rules on acid fracking

markwells-wood-3-edited

Markwells Wood wellsite in West Sussex

West Sussex has a last chance next month to strengthen controls on the use of acid in oil and gas operations.

Policies that will help decide hydrocarbon planning applications for the next 15 years go out for their final public consultation from 16 January 2017 for eight weeks.

A key issue is likely to be whether the minerals local plan for West Sussex and the South Downs National Park should have a specific policy on a technique known as acidisation.

The latest version of the plan has one policy (M7b) which deals with hydraulic fracturing. This prevents the process in the national park and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and the most vulnerable water source zones.

Another policy (M7a) allows oil and gas exploration without hydraulic fracturing in the national park and AONBs only in exceptional circumstances and in the public interest.

Neither policy mentions the use of acid, which has recently become a controversial issue in the region. The exploration company, UK Oil & Gas Investments Plc, has included the possible use of acidisation in a planning application for Markwells Wood oil site, near Stoughton, in the national park.

The industry says acid has been used routinely to clean wells or improve flow rates for almost 120 years.

But some campaign and residents’ groups say they are concerned about the lack of evidence about its long-term and cumulative effects.

Acidisation is one of several techniques to release oil and gas trapped within rocks that is unable to flow at commercial rates unless stimulated.

The campaigner, Kathryn McWhirter, has compiled a briefing document which says these techniques range from acid washing – cleaning the well at low pressure to remove debris – to acid fracking, which is a major operation, done at pressure, above the fracture point of rock.

Calls for redrafting

A handful of members of West Sussex County Council and the national park authority have called for a redrafting of policy M7b on hydraulic fracturing to include acidisation. But the latest version of the plan has been approved by both authorities without this change.

cllr-sandra-jamesCllr Sandra James, who represents the Markwells Wood area on West Sussex County Council, voiced her concerns about acidisation when the minerals plan was discussed at a full meeting of the authority last week (16/12/2016).

Cllr James (UKIP, Bourne division) told the meeting:

“The government has made a commitment to ensure that hydraulic fracturing cannot be conducted from wells that are drilled at the surface of national parks and other protected areas.

“This definition of fracking should, in my view, be strengthened to include oil extraction using the technique of acidisation which I would contest is a lighter version of fracking.”

She said acidisation was “closely aligned” to fracking and had similar environmental implications and concerns.

She said the new wording was:

“required to offset the rapidity of technical developments for oil extraction which, on the surface, [is] term[ed] differently from fracking but where their technique is closely aligned to fracking and where similar environmental implications and concerns exist.”

Cllr James called for policy M7b to be redrafted to include the process of acidisation and other fracking-related techniques.

She also called for stronger wording to protect properties affected by oil and gas developments. The current wording of both M7a and M7b requires unacceptable impacts to be minimised or mitigated. Cllr James said this should be replaced with prevented.

The issue was also raised when members of the South Downs National Park Authority approved the latest version of the plan (29/11/2016).

Alun Alesbury, who represents West Sussex parishes on the authority, called for a more restrictive policy for acid fracking in the National Park than the policy which covered what he described as the “nodding donkey old-fashioned” extraction.

Mark Dunn, representing Chichester District Council, said he was “rather disturbed” that the national park authority had relied on a briefing by the American Petroleum Institute.

Representations

Next month’s consultation will ask people to comment on the “soundness and legal compliance of the plan”.

cllr-bob_lanzerCllr Bob Lanzer, the cabinet member responsible for the plan on West Sussex County Council, told Cllr James:

“It will be going out to renewed representation over a period of some two months at which point you will have the opportunity to make those detailed representations and it is conceivable that if you were to speak with me about some of those details offline from this meeting that you might have support of them in subsequent representations regarding the minerals local plan.”

Next steps

The consultation closes on Monday 13 March 2017.

If major changes are needed, the plan will be redrafted and sent back to the council and national park authority to approve again.

If no major changes are needed, it will go to an independent planning inspector. West Sussex is currently expecting to adopt the plan in May 2018.

Links

Link to draft minerals plan

Link to report on the minerals plan to West Sussex County Council

Webcast of West Sussex County Council meeting

Webcast of South Downs National Park authority meeting

9 replies »

  1. Good to see Councillor James and some of her fellow Councillors understand what acidisation is? Just joking – they haven’t got a clue. Nor do they understand the differences between high volume high pressure shale fracks and acid washes and limestone acidisation. Do they also want to ban the production of paper, detergent, plastics, and more. It is also used in the manufacturing of food additives, gelatin, and other types of food products. Cleaning brass, copper, iron, and other metals. Cleaning bricwork and swimming pools and general purpose cleaning…….

    http://www.doityourself.com/stry/6-best-uses-for-muriatic-acid

    • A typical ridiculous irrelevant reply.

      ‘Do they also want to ban the production of paper, detergent, plastics, and more. It is also used in the manufacturing of food additives, gelatin, and other types of food products. Cleaning brass, copper, iron, and other metals. Cleaning bricwork and swimming pools and general purpose cleaning…….’

      Pathetic but typical

      A better reference to someone who hasn’t got a clue would be this company who claim

      Members of Cuadrilla’s management team have each played leading roles in the drilling and/or hydraulic fracturing of more than 3,000 natural gas and oil wells across the world. Cuadrilla is aiming to be a “model company” for unconventional exploration in the UK. It is acutely aware of the responsibilities this brings, particularly with regard to safety, environmental protection and working with local communities.

      Yet they caused this

      https://www.gov.uk/government/…/5075-preese-hall-shale-gas-fracturing-review.pdf

      You appear to be a supporter of this company. What do you think of their technical failings so far?.

  2. A reminder of Cuadrillas ‘ working with local communities’

    Still showing on their website

    ‘In accordance with the planning consent well plugging and site restoration work will be carried out after the wintering bird’s season, ending 31st March 2016 and before the deadline set by Lancashire County Council of 31st October 2016.’

    No work finished. No work even started.

    No interest whatsoever in local communities.

    • Nothing new to add to the debate John? Don’t you get bored with posting the same old Cuadrilla link and your references to the zillion barrels of oil still to be produced (or is it discovered?) in the North Sea and the huge workforce – I see you have finally reduced this by the 120,000 who lost their jobs in 2016.

    • Yes. Caudrilla management is pretty poor in keeping with things on time and within schedule. A bit poor for a company that is supposed to be the leading example for the industry.

    • Deliberate and desperate ploys by the Government to push shale led to the changing of the 2015 infrastructure bill.

      We now have the situation that the entire development at Preese Hall would not have to be considered as a ‘fracking application’ as Preese Hall only used just over 8,000 cubic metres of water in total.

      An drilling development can be considered in an Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, or Sites of Special Scientific Interest and can then be subjected to the same level of fracking at Preese Hall but not have to be considered against fracking criteria.

      Section 4A: supplementary provision

      (1)“Associated hydraulic fracturing” means hydraulic fracturing of shale or strata encased in shale which—

      (a)is carried out in connection with the use of the relevant well to search or bore for or get petroleum, and

      (b)involves, or is expected to involve, the injection of—

      (i)more than 1,000 cubic metres of fluid at each stage, or expected stage, of the hydraulic fracturing, or

      (ii)more than 10,000 cubic metres of fluid in total.

      http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/7/section/50/enacted

      We now have the situation that the entire development at Preese Hall would now no longer have to be considered as a ‘fracking application’ as Preese Hall only used just over 8,000 cubic metres of water in total.

      A drilling development can be considered in an Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, or Sites of Special Scientific Interest and can then be subjected to the same level of fracking as Preese Hall but not have to be considered against fracking criteria thus avoiding planning issues and compulsory EIA, and avoiding technical recommendations brought in specifically to try and address the string of technical failings that occurred at Preese Hall.

      The British Geological Survey reviewed the Preese Hall report on what went wrong, brought out recommendations, but those recommendations would no longer apply to the development on which the recommendations were based on.

      West Sussex Council are correct in scrutinising every little bit of information, and getting necessary protection in place.

      • You’re right John. All the government’s shifting of the goal posts and weasel words prove they know they’ve lost the argument and are resorting to brute force to push shale onto this country. The fact is though that judging by Cuadrilla’s previous 100% failure rate here in Lancashire, it’s only a matter of time before they make such a spectacular mess of it that even the government will have to back down.

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