Regulation

Tears and cheers over refusal of Wressle oil production plans

nlc-170111-7

Elizabeth Williams, Frack Free Lincs

Opponents of plans for 15 years of oil production near Scunthorpe had tears in their eyes when councillors refused planning permission this afternoon.

North Lincolnshire’s planning committee voted against the application at Egdon Resource’s Wressle site, despite a recommendation from officers to approve.

The result (six against, three in favour and one abstention)  was greeted with cheers from a neighbouring room where most spectators had been required by the council to watch the meeting on a video link.

Immediately after the meeting, the reaction from Elizabeth Williams, a speaker against the application and member of Frack Free Lincs, was:

“Wow”.

She added:

“It’s profound relief. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. We have worked so intensively over the past six months”

Another speaker against the plans, Geraldine Clayton, said:

“I don’t know whether I can describe how I feel.”

Mark Abbott, managing director of Egdon Resources, the site operator, said:

“We need to take some time to consider our next steps.”

The vote came after councillors heard presentations from opponents and the company about techniques that would be used to stimulate the well and increase oil production.

They included a proppant squeeze, which involves pumping sand and gelled water under pressure into the well, and acidisation, where, in this case, diluted hydrochloric and hydrofluoric acid would be injected to improve oil flows.

Egdon stressed that these techniques were standard in conventional oil fields. But opponents said they were untried, untested and a form of hydraulic fracturing.

Several councillors said the proposed operations threatened a supply of groundwater used by British Steel at its nearby plant in Scunthorpe. In September last year, the council voted to promote the company and the meeting heard a statement of objection from the Unison union at the works.

len-fosterA substitute member of the committee, Labour’s Len Foster told the committee:

“I do not think it is a risk we can take for our major employer. I will be objecting to this application.”

There were also repeated complaints by councillors that the Environment Agency could not be trusted to regulate the site.

Cllr Foster, said:

“I am fed up with them. There have been problems with flooding, with river water issues, and it’s never been their fault. They hedge their bets on every single occasion.”

holly-mumby-croft-nlcBut the crunch came when the Conservative ward councillor, Holly Mumby-Croft, said she had concerns about the application that had not been addressed in the officer’s report. She said:

“I cannot support this application”.

The committee voted against the plans on the grounds that there was insufficient information to allay fears about the risk of water contamination and damage to the environment and local economy.

After the meeting, Elizabeth Williams, of Frack Free Lincs, said:

“This result was beyond our wildest dreams – that the planning committee have listened and digested the information in front of them.

“This [application] is low volume high pressure hydraulic fracturing, not in shale, but in sandstone.

“We hope this decision will set a precedent in the rest of the county, especially at Markwells Wood in the South Downs, where there is a similar application.

“It is a brilliant decision for wild spaces, for work places and for the climate.”

Asked whether she expected the company to appeal, Ms Williams said:

“They usually do. The fight is not over.

“We go on to support everyone else across the county as they have supported us today.

“It is so heart-warming to see people coming to support us here from across the country.”

Chris Crean, Friends of the Earth regional campaigner in the East Midlands, said:

“This is a tremendous result for local people and fair play to the councillors for having the courage to turn down this application. This decision will be seen by many other local planning committees as a way that we can all stand up to this dirty industry.”

The council approved a second application by Egdon for groundwater monitoring boreholes at Wressle. This was a condition of the site’s environmental permit.

Disappointment for Egdon

In a written statement issued after the meeting, Mark Abbott said:

“We’re disappointed because we undertook a comprehensive consultation and addressed every concern raised by the community and other businesses to the satisfaction of the officers of the council who recommended both applications be approved.

“We’re pleased however that the application for boreholes to monitor groundwater onsite has been approved. We’ll review what has happened here today and think about our next steps.”

Later the statement was updated to include:

“Our business has been operating exploration and production sites in a safe and environmentally sensitive manner across the region for many years, engaging with communities, employing local people and investing in the local supply chain.

We will now take time to consider our options including our right to bring forward an appeal.”

Egdon and its partners had been counting on a go-ahead for oil production at Wressle. In its last annual report, Egdon predicted the well would generate a total of 500 barrels of oil per day, of which it would benefit from 125 barrels. This compares with Egdon’s total UK oil production of 177 barrels per day in 2015-2016.

One of the partners, Celtique Energie, said in its accounts published last year that its cash flow forecasts assumed revenues from Wressle. It warned:

“If there are delays in the development, the development is unsuccessful or production is less than forecast, the Group and/or Company may not have sufficient funds to repay shareholder loans or settle their liabilities as they fall due.”

A total of four companies have a stake in the Wressle project. Their shares are: Egdon (operator) 25%; Celtique Energie 33.3%; Europa 30%; Union Jack Oil 11.67%.

Hugh Mackay, chief executive of Europa, said this afternoon::

“At an anticipated gross rate of 500 bopd [barrels of oil equivalent per day], Wressle has the potential to generate meaningful revenues not just for the participating companies, but also for the government in the form of tax receipts. With this in mind, we will be exploring with our partners all options on how best to take these licences forward and further updates will be provided in due course.”

Egdon’s share price closed the day down 11.75% at 13.90p. Europa Oil & Gas (Holdings) Plc was down 14.58% at 5.12p and Union Jack Oil Plc down 26.11% at 0.13p.

More details on Egdon and Celtique Energie accounts

Breaking news on the vote

Live updates from the planning committee

Key facts on the application

DrillOrDrop’s review of the planning officer’s recommendation for approval

Updated 12/01/2017 to include the revised statement from Egdon Resources


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

37 replies »

  1. wonderful, exciting news; Congrats to all Citizens involved in this for many months and getting such a Win….Looks like there were serious concerns for the groundwater for British Steel…shows concern for water contamination from oil drilling ….
    and are there any homes and water supply near this to be concerned about ? …..Cheers and Tears of Joy to you all…Great
    work Frack Free Lincs and all….

    • Acidisation has been used for decades in the oil industry to improve production, for example this quote from North Sea company Enquest “19 May 2016 – 2016 production from the rest of EnQuest’s North Sea fields was up 19% year on year, with … are expected to increase with performance enhancements such as acidisation being undertaken.”.

      Sorry, often heavy industrial processes involve procedures which have the potential to be be disastrous (read for example how an oil refinery actually works) or imagine the risks faced by North Sea workers in the weather conditions we have at present. That’s why there are regulations and procedures to reduce risk. There is no risk free industrial activity, it’s all a balance of risk versus benefit. Most readers of this blog will be driving around in cars fuelled by petrol obtained through the use of acidisation, or from the North Sea, or of couse from an oil refinery. It’s all the same, risk versus benefit. The benefits of course are all the things we take for granted like central heating, cars or plastics.

  2. I find it depressing that the UK is walking blindly into a state of being almost completely dependent on imported natural gas and crude oil. Until we can overcome the problem that wind and solar are intermittent energy sources we will require a source of fossil fuels and it has to come from somewhere.

    Currently there is a relative over supply of LNG (some of it from US shale gas) but I can foresee a scenario where the political imperatives to reduce pollution in China will mirror the UK natural gas revolution in the 1970’s and massively increase demand and therefore price. So the danger of working class people in the UK paying more for their gas to mainly Russia and the Middle East. It’s a folly of epic proportions.

  3. After ASA take FOE to task on Cudkillas behalf, for making claims about water pollution and fracking we get British Steel at Scunthorpe and councillors repeating:-

    ”there was insufficient information to allay fears about the risk of water contamination and damage to the environment and local economy.”

    Not only that our regional news made a headline huge soundbyte out of this as it reported on the committee’s decision.

    Wonder if Cuadkilla will now sue Brit Steel, the Committee, and all media that repeats that fracking causes heavy pollution to underground water………………………..?

  4. Congratulations to North Lincolnshire and all those who fought to Keep it in the ground!
    Everybody knows that Fracking contributes massively to CO2 emissions. It goes against what the UK signed up to in the Paris agreement, COP21. What kind of a world do we want our children to live in? If fracking goes ahead it will be a toxic environment and a ruined natural environment and the damage is irreversible and impossible to clean up. The industry should stop pulling the wool over people’s eyes.
    The solution? Renewables, Renewables, Renewables. They know it and we know it!

    • Jack – we keep hearing on this BB that fracking contributes massively to methane emissions through fugitive emissions, not CO2. Whilst I disagree that fracked shale wells have higher fugitive emissions of methane than imported gas, I do understand that burning methane results in the same amount of CO2 however the methane is sourced, shale, conventional, marsh, cows farts etc….

      • Paul, methane escapes during every stage of its extraction, processing, transport, distribution and use. Not extracting shale gas would save huge volumes of fugitive emissions, that’s why using natural / pre-existing / farm methane is more environmentally friendly.

        • Wandering Dutchman – correct, also every time I light my gas cooker or my boiler fires up. Replacing imported LNG / HPHT long distance pipelined gas with UK shale gas will reduce fugitive emissions will it not? And how do you catch a cows fart? What is natural methane? Are you saying that Biogenic methane is better than Thermogenic methane re fugitive emissions?

    • mar g – Just in case you have been genuinely misled, here is a report with lots of links to studies, databases and court cases linking Fracking with water, soil and air pollution. http://www.ecowatch.com/pennsylvania-fracking-water-contamination-much-higher-than-reported-1882166816.html + http://files.dep.state.pa.us/OilGas/BOGM/BOGMPortalFiles/OilGasReports/Determination_Letters/Regional_Determination_Letters.pdf
      In case you were under the false impression that the ASA is impartial, are you aware that their chair Chris Smith used to be chair of the UK Environment Agency, and is currently (Jan 2017) chair of the ASA and the Fracking-industry-funded Task Force On Shale Gas? ASA https://www.asa.org.uk/About-ASA/Our-team/ASA-Council.aspx + TFOSG https://www.taskforceonshalegas.uk/about-the-task-force Funding: https://www.taskforceonshalegas.uk/funding

      • Wandering Dutchman: the link for proof of gas drilling impacts on our Pennsylvania water is only the tip of the iceberg or Frackberg…
        Our DEP in Pennsylvania works under tight perimeters on what they can use to determine if the gas industry has contaminated our water wells.
        DEP tests for only a particular suite of compounds and we have Universities in Texas and New York that have tested our water beyond the perimeters of our regulatory agency and found chemicals connected with Fracking that are usually not tested for…
        Our DEP has received thousands of citizen complaints throughout the Fracked Counties in Pa. and most of them they discount if they don’t fall into the perimeters which can be time and distance constraints….we have to complain with 6 mos. in the first years of Fracking in my State
        or within a year now or we are discounted and if we are more than a 1/2 mile from the gas wells , we are discounted…these
        are arbitrary rules of time and distance that our State DEP has determined….
        Pollution can travel more than 1/2 mile and can take more than a year to show up in farther distances and
        some contamination may not be noticed by smell or taste….and the water can still look clear….and have contaminants…
        Two chemicals were found in my water by a University study about a year ago and I can’t smell it or taste it….
        Check out these studies by University of Texas at Arlington, which has tested water wells near gas drilling/fracking in Texas:
        http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.5b01526
        And a new study is finally underway with cooperation with the Oil and Gas Industry, Apache, and the University of Texas
        to have full access to pre-drill testing in a new Oil and Gas Basin in western Texas and access to the wells drilled during the whole
        process and test the water :
        http://www.mysanantonio.com/business/eagle-ford-energy/article/Apache-UT-Arlington-to-partner-on-water-studies-9966572.php

        Can you imagine we had to wait 10 years or more for such a full, open collaborative study with the Industry…
        And this can take more years to complete….and meanwhile, our country is allowing drilling throughout our country….

        We need to know more what goes on under the ground in our shales and stone and rocks under high pressure and with a cocktail of chemicals and sand…

  5. I want to see a massive government sponsored initiative to reduce energy needs across the country. More money should be going into this than in exploring for more fossil fuels, which we know is a dead end and potentially a dead planet! Let’s look at how we can significantly reduce our needs for gas in the home and in industry. Just think of the thousands of jobs this would create, far more than any from the onshore oil and gas industry. The more renewable energy we use, the less fossil fuels we need. So reducing energy needs and increasing renewable energy availability will create loads of jobs AND reduce our need for fossil fuels.
    And well done to the council for their rational decision. Well done for not being bullied by this government and their chums in the oil and gas industry. Well done to all the local people who contributed to the debate.

    • The problem Malcolm is that most renewables, except the burning of wood chips or agro-industrial waste, are intermittent and weather dependent, so until we overcome that problem at reasonable cost we continue to need fossil fuels. The issue is always balancing the energy trilemma of climate sensitivity, security of supply and affordability. I see we are due to get the first output from Tesla’s battery megafactory this year. It’ll be interesting to see what becmes of that.

      It’s worth remembering that the calorific value of the gas supply in the UK Is three times the calorific value of the electricity supply, and on a cold day like today, up to five times. What that means is that replacing gas with electricity in central heating (even with increased insulation) would require a maassive increase in electricity supply which would have to come from renewable sources.

      BTW it’s another little known fact that, as I understand it, the UK uses less energy than we did in 2000. The reason for this is, of course, improvement in efficiency in car engines and in electrical appliances such as lightbulbs and fridges. I guess on the one hand that shows what is possible in improving energy efficiency but it’s been done by investing in new technology, not advocating some bizarre return to a pre-industrial age.

      • Nobody is advocating a “return to a pre-industrial age”. If this government had legislated for the building of zero-energy buildings and supported the retro-fitting of existing buildings, funded by the fossil-fuel subsidies, and supported decentralised / private energy generation, we wouldn’t be in this ‘all out for shale’ / energy security mess. Local generation and use of energy would save a huge percentage of energy loss. (‘up to 70% of the Electricity you generate is lost during transit along power lines’) But energy generation democratisation is discouraged and even blocked by governments to preserve the current power generators oligopoly. (party donors)

  6. Has no one an acquaintance who works in the building industry?

    The VAST majority of houses now being built will have gas central heating installed.

    What is in the future is another matter. For the next 20-30 years we will have most of our houses in UK with this type of heating, Most of our vehicles, certainly for the next 10 years, will be powered petrol or diesel.

    If there are supplies of oil and gas here in the UK to supply that requirement who gains from it being imported? There is already fracked gas being shipped into UK from USA. Can not see the environmental gain from that.

  7. Vera – this article implies that US shale gas will drive a 60 year US gas net export program?

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-10-20/the-u-s-unleashes-the-full-power-of-shale

    “Sometime in 2017, for the first time in 60 years, the U.S. will likely sell more natural gas to the world than it buys. Next year, capacity to export liquefied natural gas from the lower 48 states, chilled to –260F so it can be shipped by tanker, will more than double, to 3.2 billion cubic feet per day. That will add to huge increases in the volume of gas already being piped to Mexico and could boost exports to foreign countries to about 9 percent of total U.S. gas production.”

    • That’s why the lies by the US pipeline industry, that new pipelines under construction like DAPL etc are for domestic energy security, are so reprehensible, as many run North-South towards the Gulf Coast and are clearly meant for export. DAPL has nothing to do with Dakota Shale, it is a connector between the Gulf and Tar-Sands in Canada. Ironically, increasing production will mean lower prices and less profit.

      • But I keep reading on this BB that the US shale gas boom is finished, uneconomic, dead, ponzi scheme etc. etc. Looks like it is doing pretty well overall?

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