Regulation

First INEOS shale gas exploration bid gets underway

marsh-lane-location

Approximate location of INEOS shale gas site. Image: Google Maps

The oil and chemicals firm INEOS has revealed details of what could be its first shale gas site in the UK.

The company said this morning it had identified land for a vertical well in countryside south of Sheffield.

It expected to seek permission for five years for the site near Eckington, in north east Derbyshire. According to a company spokesperson, the plans did not include fracking.

INEOS said it had submitted an environmental screening report to Derbyshire County Council – the first step towards a formal planning application, which would follow.

The council must now decide whether the application needs a detailed environmental impact assessment (EIA). INEOS has said an EIA isn’t needed and a less-detailed environmental report is sufficient.

This is likely to be the first application for shale gas in Derbyshire and the first in the INEOS exploration licences in the East Midlands, Yorkshire and North West England.

The company said it had organised an exhibition about the plans on 31 January (see section headed Exhibition).

Last week, documents released under a Freedom of Information request revealed that INEOS had also identified a potential drilling site in north Nottinghamshire and had secured agreement from the Forestry Commission for seismic testing in Sherwood Forest.

Screening report

The Derbyshire site identified today is on privately-owned land, off Bramleymoor Lane, between Marsh Lane and Apperknowle. The nearest home is 300m away.

marsh-lane-eckington-imagery-google-maps

Image: Google Maps

INEOS said it wanted to evaluate the geology by drilling a vertical well and taking rock samples that would be analysed for their gas-producing properties.

The screening report said:

“The Proposed Development would be a discrete proposal and could proceed independently. Other similar proposals for vertical core wells will be brought forward for planning applications across the East Midlands. However, these are all independent, discrete projects and would be assessed on their own merits.”

It added:

“The screening assessment has identified that significant effects on the environment are not considered likely either alone or in combination with other development and therefore the Proposed Development should not be considered to constitute EIA development as defined by the EIA Regulations.”

The screening report said the site had been chosen because:

  • It could be screened from nearby homes and sensitive landscapes
  • It was not in a groundwater source protection zone or on a flood plain
  • The nearest surface watercourse was over 600m away
  • There were no heritage assets of importance for local tourism directly next to the site
  • There were no statutory ecological designations in or next to the site
  • No significant effects were anticipated on views from a special landscape area 200m away

Site details

The screening reports gives details of the proposed site and operations.

Size

Under 1ha, not including the access track.

Location

Off Bramleymoor Lane, between Marsh Lane and Apperknowle in the INEOS exploration licence area PEDL300.

Proposed development phases

  1. Site development and establishment 3 months working 7am-7pm Monday-Friday and 7am-1pm on Saturdays
  2. Drilling and coring, including mobilisation and demobilisation of the rig 3 months working 24-hour operations for drilling and 7am-7pm Monday-Friday and 7am-1pm on Saturdays for mobilisation and demobilisation of the rig
  3. Establishment as listening well and suspension 1 week with working hours in Stage 1.
  4. Listening well operations using geophones 3 weeks working 7am-7pm Monday-Friday
  5. Abandonment and restoration 1 month working as for Stage 1

There is only one reference to hydraulic fracturing in the screening report. It says activities in stage 4 at the Marsh Lane site:

“would take place only when a well on another separate site is hydraulic fractured, subject to such a consent for that separate site being granted within the period of planning consent for this well.”

Site development work

  • Clearance of vegetation and hedge trimming
  • Installation of a geotextile and polyethylene liner
  • Installation of groundwater monitoring boreholes
  • Creation of drainage pipes to contain surface runoff
  • Installation of cabins, stacked up to two high
  • Excavation of the well cellar, 2.5m wide and 3m deep, constructed from reinforced concrete
  • Creation and seeding of soil bunds around the site

Drilling phase

The well would be drilled to 2,408m using a rig measuring up to 60m high.

Impacts

Traffic

Construction phase

  • Two weeks of up to 100 heavy goods vehicle (HGV) movements a day (50 in and 50 out), equivalent to nine HGV movements per hour over a 12-hour day.
  • Up to 20 days of more than 10 HGV movements a day
  • Other periods: fewer than 10 vehicle movements a day

Drilling phase

  • Beginning and end of the phase: 20-50 HGV movements in a 12-hour day
  • An additional 16 movements of HGVs over 32 tonnes to mobilise and demobilise the rig
  • Other periods would see fewer than 10 HGV movements.

Air pollution

The document said:

“On-site generators and the drilling rig (both diesel powered) would produce temporary, localised emissions to air, likely to include NOx, SOx, PM10 and 2.5, CO and VOCs. Generators would be sized appropriately for site energy requirements and would be efficient, with emissions reduced as far as possible.”

Noise

The document said:

“Noise during the construction and drilling phases would be temporary. Noise emissions would be mitigated through the selection and location of plant and site facilities and through siting the development an appropriate distance to ensure noise levels at the receptors are acceptable.”

“Ground borne vibration is expected to be imperceptible at distances of greater than 20 m from the drill rig. The closest residential properties are approximately 250 m from the proposed site access track and 300 m from the site.”

Lighting

The screening document said “all lighting would be carefully directionally controlled to limit environmental effects. No significant effects are anticipated”.

Contamination

The document anticipated “no significant effects” on risk to contamination of land or water through the release of pollutants.

Heritage

The nearest Grade II listed buildings are over 500m south of the site. The Moss Valley Conservation Area is 300m to the north and West Handley Conservation Area is 700m to the south.

Exhibition

In a statement today, the company said:

“INEOS looks forward to working alongside the local community to ensure that the important issues have been discussed considered and are understood prior to the planning application being submitted.”

INEOS has also given details of the exhibition:

Tuesday 31 January, 2pm-8pm, Green Lawns Community Centre, 8 Warren Walk, Marsh Lane, Derbyshire S21 5RX

“Decision on individual merits”

Derbyshire County Council’s Strategic Director for Economy, Transport and Communities, Mike Ashworth, confirmed that this would be the first application of its kind in the county.He said:

“The county council has a legal obligation to decide on planning applications about fracking in Derbyshire.

“Our planning committee considers each planning application on its individual merits and is impartial. As with any other planning application, each planning decision it makes is based on objective analysis of evidence, taking into account local and national planning policies and the relevant comments of official consultees − such as parish councils − and the public.”

Mr Ashworth added:

“We’re committed to making information available to the public on our website every step of the way throughout the planning process.”

INEOS shale programme

INEOS’s timetable for shale gas exploration has changed markedly over the past year.

In January 2016, INEOS told the Telegraph it intended to submit planning applications in the spring and drill ten core wells before the end of this year.

In July, the FT reported that the company aimed to submit as many as 30 planning applications in the next six months to drill test wells.

But by September, the Telegraph said the company had downgraded its exploration plans and under a revised timetable hoped to submit five applications before the end of the year. By the end of the year, none had been submitted.

Link to INEOS screening report

Ineos screening report

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