Planning officers at North Lincolnshire Council have recommended approval of plans to produce oil for 15 years at Egdon Resources’ Wressle site near Scunthorpe.
The application, which includes proposals for a proppant squeeze and acidisation but not high volume hydraulic fracturing, is due to be decided by the council’s planning committee next week (Wednesday 11 January).
There have been more than 200 objections to the application, including one from British Steel and another from Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust. But local town councils at Broughton and Brigg have supported the proposal and there have been no objections from the Environment Agency, Natural England or the council’s highways department.
A report by planners, published today, concluded:
“It is considered that there are no material adverse impacts of the development that would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits.”
The report recommended 21 conditions on any planning permission.
DrillOrDrop has reviewed the key issues in the planners’ report. We will be reporting from the decision meeting.
Applicant: Egdon Resources
Application number: MIN/2016/810
Address: Lodge Farm, Clapp Gate, Appleby, DN15 0DB
Size: 1.85 ha temporary exploration well site
Location: about 1.6km from Wressle and Broughton, in open countryside of agricultural fields and woodland
Planning history: permission granted on 18 June 2013, well drilled in 2014 and flow tested in 2015
Nearest home: North Cottage, 530 metres away
Closest designated wildlife sites: Broughton Far Wood Site of Special Scientific Interest 700m away. Broughton Alder Wood SSSI is 1.3km away.
Nearest Scheduled ancient monument: Thornholme Augustinian Priory is 1.5km. Broughton Grange Farmhouse, grade ii listed, is 600m
Landscape designation: Previously classed as “high landscape value” but the planners said this policy no longer applied
Flood risk: In a flood zone 1 but the eastern edge of the site is next to a flood zone 2/3a
Water abstraction: There are wells within 100m of the site and secondary aquifers lie below the site
- Extend area by 0.12ha to manage site access
- Remove existing storage tank containment bund and replace with masonry bund
- Install tanker loading plinth, oil/surface water interceptor, production facilities and equipment
- Install offices, canteen, welfare units, generators,
Increasing oil flow
- Drill a 25m side-track using a 40m drill rig (3-4 weeks)
- Radial drilling: Drilling out the existing casing using high-velocity water/fluid jets to create up to four small boreholes 1-2 inches and up to 100m long to improve production efficiency (1 week)
- Proppant squeeze: Using a slurry of sand and gelled water injected into existing perforations to reinstate/enhance channels through formation. Expected volumes include 20-30 tons of sand and 100-150m3 of gelled liquid
- Acidisation: Inject acid solution through existing perforations to improve permeability of the Ashover Grit sandstone. Expected volumes include 50m3 of dilute hydrochloric acid and hydrofluoric acid (3 days).
Production of oil and gas
Separated fluids recovered from the production operation would be stored within storage tanks on site. Oil would be collected by road tanker for processing
Water would be sent for treatment at a licensed facility.
If there is sufficient volume of gas, it would be used to generate electricity for export to the distribution network. Otherwise it would be flared.
It is planned to connect to the mains or farm water supply for site water use. If this is not possible then water would have to be brought to site via road tankers.
It is not expected that the site would be connected to the electricity grid before production starts so a diesel generator would be used to provide power.
Proppant squeeze and acidisation
Many of the comments raised concerns about these processes.
Opponents said Egdon had misled them by saying the proposal was not fracking. They argued that a proppant squeeze was designed, like fracking, to inject liquid at high pressure to keep open fractures in target rock. They said:
“Production over the years necessitates many more boreholes to maximise volumes of oil and gas extracted. We don’t want North Lincs to be sacrificed to the fracking industry.”
Other comments included:
- Proppant squeeze and acidisation had not been properly tested and effective monitoring was not possible
- Environment Agency had no experience of the use of hydrofluoric acid in the onshore oil industry and the chemical was extremely hazardous.
- Most wells became uneconomical after one-three years so the well would need to be re-fracked or more wells drilled
- Two more wells would be needed to extract recoverable oil
- Concerns about waste disposal, injection and storage of chemicals
The planners responded that the proppant squeeze was “considered a conventional hydraulic fracture technique to clear the near wellbore of damage as a result of initial drilling and testing activity.
They included this quote from Egdon:
“The proppant squeeze has also been referred to by others as a “mini-frac” and there is a common misconception that this is the same as High Volume Fracturing of shale rocks for gas or oil, commonly referred to as “fracking”. Fracking is defined in the Infrastructure Act 2015 as the injection of more than 1,000 cubic metres of fluid at each stage of hydraulic fracturing or more than 10,000 cubic metres of fluid in total.
“The production operations at Wressle will not, either now, or in the future, involve the process of fracking for shale gas or oil. This area of Lincolnshire does not have the specific rock formations that contain shale gas or oil. The proposed oil field development at Wressle and associated operations are all related to conventional oil and gas”.
Opponents argued that the application, designed to produce hydrocarbons, did not present evidence or an assessment of its impact on climate change. They said:
“We must urgently cut down on fossil fuel use. 80% of proven reserves must stay in the ground if we are to avoid dangerous climate change. Drilling more and more oil and gas wells like this is not the way forward.”
Opponents added that decision-makers must take account of the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There were also concerns about the impact of flaring on climate change.
Policy CS18 of the Core Strategy for North Lincolnshire requires all industrial and commercial premises greater than 1,000 square metres to provide 20% of their expected energy demands from on-site renewable energy. But there is no proposed condition on this in today’s report. The planners said:
“It is very difficult to assess the overall impact of the development in the wider context of climate change and national climate change policy/commitments as it is impossible to know how the oil and gas produced will be used and whether or not it will replace existing foreign imports.
“However, it is considered that the development does accord with national policy in that the Government wishes to see energy supplies from a variety of sources, and that indigenous oil and gas remain key to energy security.”
Opponents argued that the site was rich in freshwater courses and aquifers that were especially vulnerable to contamination from the site, traffic accidents or well damage.
They added that the site was in a groundwater vulnerability zone, close to several aquifers and the Ella Beck. The application allows for surface water to be discharged into the Beck, prompting concerns over a risk of surface water contamination. Other opponents raised the risk of groundwater contamination caused by the failure of the well casing and membrane underlying the site.
British Steel has objected that there was a risk of groundwater pollution to its boreholes at Clapgate Pumphouse.
But the planners concluded there was not an unacceptable risk of groundwater pollution and that there should be no significant impact on water yields to thee boreholes.
They said the aquifer was isolated from the borehole with three casings. They added:
“There are no proposals as part of this application to drill another borehole from surface, through the aquifer, but instead to use the existing borehole and retain intact the casing passing through the aquifer.”
The membrane was designed to contain an uncontrolled flow of oil at a rate of 50 barrels a day for 30 days, the planners said. They added that a separate planning application had been submitted for three groundwater monitoring boreholes which would record the existing quality as a baseline.
The planners also concluded that the risk to the site from flooding was negligible, as was the likely impact of the site on the flood risk in the area. Opponents had argued that Egdon may not have used correct timeframes to analyse the level of flood risk.
Opponents argued that site lighting, noise, pollution, vibration, increased traffic would have an impact on wildlife and nearby nature reserves. The area is a water-vole sensitive area, they said. Other local wildlife included bats, barn owls, kingfishers, woodlark, badgers, reptiles, great crested newt, otter and brown hare.
Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust urged the council to refuse permission unless it was entirely satisfied that the development would not adversely impact on nationally or locally designated sites of nature conservation importance.
The planners argued in their report that the application would be “unlikely to have any adverse impact on protected or notable species or habitats”.
They concluded that the site had a lower biodiversity value since the construction of the well site in 2014.
“There are no habitats within the site boundary that are suitable to support any protected or notable species and the nature conservation value of the site is assessed as being negligible.”
They said the only change resulting from the new application would be the installation of an outfall to Ella Beck to discharge clean surface-water run-off, instead of removing it by tanker.
The planners said there would be a pre-construction check for water voles before the new outfall was installed.
“It is considered that the risks to water vole burrows (if present) can be adequately addressed through a precautionary working method statement. No other mitigation measures specific to habitats or protected species are considered necessary”.
North Lincolnshire Council’s ecologist had called for a “unilateral undertaking” to secure biodiversity improvements off the site to make up for any impacts. But Egdon challenged this and proposed improvements on the site instead. The ecologist has since concluded that the unilateral undertaking was no longer needed.
Opponents of the application argued that it would result in the industrialisation of a beautiful part of countryside. It was also suggested that approving this application would result in other well sites and a cumulative degrading impact on the area.
The planners responded:
“The application site is not located in any area designated either nationally or locally for its landscape importance. there are no public rights of way running through or adjacent to the site.
Given the relatively flat topography of the local landscape and the natural screening of the site afforded by the existing woodland blocks surrounding it, any adverse impact on the surrounding landscape will be extremely localised and would not be considered significant.”
Proposed drilling would have a greater impact on the landscape, the report said, but this operation was “very limited in duration” and the drill rig would be removed from site when not in use.
Opponents argued that the plans would result in drilling noise 24 hours a day for several weeks and further noise from compressors, pumps and HGVs. Destroy the tranquillity of the area.
The councils Environmental Health officer concluded that the development would have the potential to cause a noise nuisance to neighbouring residential properties.
The planners have set limits on the noise levels and said this would “adequately protect” people living nearby.
Comments on the application included concerns about air pollution from methane, emissions from the flare, other equipment and vehicles and dust (including silica). They said: “Air pollution from drilling sites causes or exacerbates existing respiratory problems.”
The planners responded that the most polluting events were short-term and limited to a “relatively short overall period”.
“It is considered that the risks of an adverse impact upon air quality, either in respect of local residents or sensitive habitats, is very low and that there would be appropriate measures to ensure the protection of air quality.”
The application is likely to generate extra heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) journeys. These include:
- 49 movements during site construction
- 20 loads for transporting production facilities
- 40 movements over 3 days for mobilisation/demobilisation of the proppant squeeze
- 80 movements over 3 day for mobilisation/demobilisation of the side-track drilling equipment
- 10 movements per day during sidetrack drilling
- 10 movements over two days for mobilisation/demobilisation of radial drilling
- 8 movements for transporting chemicals for acidisation
- 2-6 movements per day during production
Opponents said the site would increase traffic by 30% on rural roads, some of which had junctions and bends that were unsuitable for HGVs. Lorries visiting the site would pose a risk to pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders, the opponents said.
The planners said:
“The transport assessment concludes that the overall impact of the development on the local highway network will be negligible/low and as such no other mitigation measures are proposed.”
Opponents said the site was on a prominent fault line and there was already subsidence problems from iron ore mining. There were concerns that operations at Wressle could affect the foundations of local houses.
The planners report said the government was responsible for regulating induced seismicity. Providing best practice was followed, they said, there was no reason to believe induced seismicity would be significant or adverse to warrant refusal.
Opponents of the application called for a bond to cover restoration in case Egdon Resources went out of business.
But the planners said the proposal was not an exceptional case and did not meet the criteria in planning guidance to justify a bond. Other regulators would control this issue, they said.
Comments against the application included concerns that site lighting would adversely affect local people. The site was in a predominantly dark rural area and light pollution, along with noise, at night could disturb sleep and aggravate anxiety.
The planners’ report concluded:
“The use of artificial lighting throughout the night will be a short-term measure only and will not be in use for the majority of the development. Furthermore, it is proposed to use lighting which is selected and designed to avoid unnecessary light spillage.”
- Health impacts of water, air pollution, noise and sleep disturbance
- Little or no benefit to local community with only a small number of jobs
- Loss of agricultural land
- Five-year monitoring was not long enough should contamination arise
- No insurance provision for damage to houses
Conditions on a planning permission included:
Work must begin within three years of the date of the permission
Before work can start, the council requires:
- Management plans on noise, traffic, biodiversity
- Assessment of potential for light impact
- Condition survey of access route
- Technical specifications of the rig
- Detailed design of chemical store
Biodiversity management plan should include:
- Measures to prevent harm to water voles
- Details of bat roosting and bird nesting sites features to be installed
- Restrictions for lighting for sidetrack drilling to avoid impacts on bat roosts and bird nesting sites
Working hours for site preparation/construction, HGV deliveries for construction and pre-production activities, rig mobilisation and assembly shall be from 7am-7pm Monday-Saturday
Oils, fuels, lubricants and other liquids should be stored on an impervious base and/or within an impervious bunded area
No ground or surface water contaminated with oil, grease or other pollutants shall be discharged into any ditch or water course
Night-time noise (7pm-7am) from the production well shall not exceed 42dB LAeq5min or 60dB LA max at any nearby homes
Daytime noise (7am-7pm) shall not exceed 55 LAeq, 1h or 70dB LA max at any nearby homes
The planning committee of North Lincolnshire Council meets at 2pm on Wednesday 11 January at the Council Chamber, Civic Centre, Ashby Rd, Scunthorpe DN16 1AB