Industry

INEOS accused of bullying landowners to gain access for fracking surveys

Seismic testing Ellesmere Port Frack Free10

The shale gas company, INEOS, has been accused of bullying landowners to allow access for geological surveys.

The company has denied the allegation. But it has confirmed that it warned the National Trust that it would take legal action if permission were refused for investigations under historic Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire.

INEOS has also accepted that in communication with other landowners, its land agent used the threat of court action. The agent also referred without permission to the British Geological Survey and an independent national geophysical survey.

INEOS has the right to explore for shale gas across more than one million acres but as a condition it has to carry out seismic surveying. This involves letting off explosive charges or using specialist trucks and recording the soundwaves to provide information about local geology.

Under the Petroleum and the Mine Working (Facilities and Support) Acts, exploration companies can ask the government to take legal action against landowners who refuse access for surveying.

The role of Fisher German Priestner

In August 2016, INEOS began negotiating for survey access with landowners in the East Midlands, represented by the land agency, Fisher German Priestner (FGP).

DrillOrDrop has previously reported on FGP’s relationship with the similarly-named Fisher German, which has offered to act on the other side of the table, on behalf of landowners.

A retired chartered surveyor has complained to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) that the two companies, which share a director, risk a conflict of interest. DrillOrDrop understands the case is now the subject of an official investigation.

The latest allegations about FGP came to light in emails released under a Freedom of Information request by Greenpeace Energy Desk.

The emails reveal that the BGS received an anonymous complaint about FGP. The BGS appears concerned that the INEOS seismic surveys were being linked to the independent National Geophysical Survey and that landowners were being told they could be forced to give access under a different piece of legislation.

The emails

In an email to INEOS on 19 September 2016, the BGS wrote:

“There have been allegations of the BGS name and the geological survey act [sic] being used to bully land owners into giving access to their land. The geological survey act is not applicable to this activity – this brings into question control of the messages the land agents are providing to land owners.”

The BGS added that its name and the National Geophysical Survey (NGS) –which it co-ordinates – had been used, unapproved, by INEOS’s land agent.

“Should any of these allegations by substantiated for the BGS, not only could this jeopardise the NGS as whole, but future surveys that BGS conduct outwith the NGS. It could also risk our impartial and independent reputation and is not how we conduct our public good role.”

The BGS asked INEOS:

“Could you investigate the validity of these claims please and the messaging that your land agents are using to gain access in the East Midlands. Obviously, if your land agents are using the BGS name we would ask that you stop this as soon as possible to minimise the risk for the NGS which we are trying to launch.”

According to the emails, INEOS replied on 21 September 2016:

“We have been assured by FGP that they have been very clear that the survey being contemplated would be a INEOS survey, not carried out under the NGS. I have also been assured that they have been taking a “softly-softly” approach so We [sic] believe there has been no bullying of any kind”.

However, the email said that FGP had told landowners that INEOS had submitted an expression of interest in taking part in the NGS scheme.

“If asked they [FGP] have also been clear that if the NGS had been available earlier that INEOS would have liked to shoot the East Midlands Survey Under [sic] the NGS.

“FGP have also been clear that while INEOS’s preference is always to secure access through reasonable agreement, if necessary – for the exploration of an area – INEOS use the [sic] provided for in Petroleum and the Mine Working (Facilities and Support) Acts to ensure adequate coverage in an area.”

INEOS also suggested that the complaint had come from an opponent of shale gas explorations:

“We don’t want to give the impression that INEOS does not take allegations of this sort serious, only that we have to accept that we will be dealing with these types of allegations from people with particular agendas.”

Two days later, the BGS wrote back to INEOS, complaining that FGP had said INEOS was interested in taking part in the NGS.

“This for us is a risk as NGS/BGS are being mentioned in association with INEOS survey, especially since we have taken a decision not to participate in survey acquisition under the NGS. Non sanctioned communications regarding the NGS and BGS could jeopardise the NGS as a whole and also any future surveys that BGS may carry out. It would be appreciated if you could stop FGP using the BGS/NGS name in the East Midlands with immediate effect.”

The BGS called for an urgent meeting with FGP:

“In order for us to understand communications and reputational risk to us and to ensure that we can mitigate any risk we would like to arrange a meeting as soon as possible with FGP discuss [sic] who they have spoken to and what has been said to date. It would also be useful for us to reiterate to them that the East Midlands survey is not a part of the NGS.”

Issue raised with government

Greenpeace also revealed that INEOS had been concerned for more than a year about gaining land access for seismic surveying. In 30 October 2015, the company raised the issue at a meeting with the then business secretary, Sajid Javid.

From notes of the meeting it appears the company had proposed working through the BGS to deal with refusals of access. The notes recorded:

3D seismic survey access – we’re aware of the increasing difficult in accessing land to carry out geological (seismic) surveys. You should welcome INEOS’ leadership in proposing a solution working through the British Geological Survey; a working group is considering this proposal.

Reaction

Hannah Martin, Energy campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said:

“Landowners, local communities and the UK public are tired of being overpowered on the issue of fracking. It is particularly concerning that INEOS appears to be using heavy handed tactics, since they were the biggest winner from the latest licensing round for fracking exploration, with 21 blocks of land across the UK. The government needs to make sure the fracking industry isn’t operating without impunity, and should be supporting clean energy technologies, like offshore wind, that will create jobs, investment and help us meet climate targets.”

INEOS statement

INEOS issued the following statement:

“As part of being granted Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences, Ineos has obligations to carry out agreed exploration activity, including seismic. In gaining access to land for seismic surveys we have two avenues we can pursue; commercial agreement and the exercise of rights under the Mines (Working Facilities and Support) Act 1966. We have discussed each of them with landowners. Rights under the Act are similar to those enjoyed by utility companies where access is required for national benefit if access is withheld by a landowner.

“Although we have had a very positive response amongst most landowners that we have approached, we anticipate that we may need to exercise those access rights in some discrete areas.

“We have indeed mentioned that the BGS could undertake seismic surveys under its powers however this was in the context that our financial offer was better than the fee the BGS would pay.

“We were invited among other companies, by the British Geological Survey in July 2016 to express interest in participating in a National Geophysical Survey and we duly expressed an interest. However it would not have applied to our East Midlands survey as the NGS survey arrangements would likely not have been concluded before we wanted to make a start.

“The BGS did write to us to ask that we did not reference the NGS in our discussions with landowners in the East Midlands and we confirmed our position with them. We have though offered to make the survey results available to the BGS under the terms that would apply if the survey had been acquired under the NGS.

“We expect to start our East Midlands survey in the next few months.”

National Trust “stands firm” over INEOS access

Today’s Sunday Times reported that the National Trust had refused access to INEOS for seismic surveying on 3,800 acres of Clumber Park.

The National Trust has a presumption against exploration for shale gas. Its external affairs director, Richard Hebditch, told the paper:

“The trust is opposed to fracking on its land and will reject any fracking requests or inquiries.”

Tom Pickering, operations director of INEOS Shale, said:

“If we cannot achieve access by negotiation, then the provisions under this act [Mines (Working Facilities and Support) Act 1966] are available to us and we would pursue them.”

Chatsworth estate update

The Chatsworth Settlement Trustees has confirmed it has given INEOS permission to conduct seismic surveys on the Scarcliffe and Staveley estates between Chesterfield and Worksop.

Jonathan Fish, the estate’s Marketing Manager told a correspondent:

“INEOS informed us that where they do not achieve access to and via negotiation, they would pursue the provisions available to them under the Mines (Working Facilities & Support) Act 1966, in order to gain access for the purpose of the survey. We have therefore agreed to the survey”.

chatsworth-ineos-seismic-testing

Mr Fish continued:

“At this time, there are many questions and concerns regarding shale gas extraction. In light of this, we have no plans to permit the extraction of shale gas on our land. As an environmentally responsible organisation, will [sic] continue to monitor developments relating to energy production.”

Last year, DrillOrDrop reported that the then Energy Minister, Andrea Leadsom, had been preparing to take court action against three landowners on behalf of Aurora Energy Resources. The company wanted to carry out seismic testing in PEDL164 in Sefton and West Lancashire. The action was later dropped when the landowners agreed to negotiate.

One of the major landowners in that area was the Church Commissioners for England. It agreed to seismic testing on its land. But its head of responsible investment, Edward Mason, said:

“The regulatory framework for these applications is weighted in favour of the company applying, and landowners who withhold consent risk being ordered to allow access by the High Court.”

15 replies »

  1. Ineos, in my opinion, seem not only ruthless but always seem to be whinging to government and asking for more and more backing and concessions if they don’t get their own way. And this is despite the fact that Jim Ratcliffe apparently disappeared to Switzerland to avoid paying a large VAT/tax bill.

    Ineos has had recent health and safety violations at their plants and guess what, whinged about the fines. Yet Ineos were very happy to take a hard line against workers at Grangemouth. There are also reports of a plant in California Florida that Ineos took over having received a huge amount of investment from the American taxpayer to do so but Ineos walked away without ever producing anything. All of this has been well documented in the press.
    http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/2017/01/17/ineos-closes-vero-beach-biofuel-plant/96412616/

    I say good on landowners standing up to Ineos and this industry, it is bad enough we had our trespass rights removed, despite overwhelming public opposition.

    It is a dangerous path Ineos or any fracking company is treading if they use the courts and government to bully their way on to privately owned land. I am sure such behaviour will only strengthen opposition and resolve. Just because legal powers exist it does not meant it is right or acceptable to resort to them. Over 200,000 signatures were gathered in days in response to any possible threat to Sherwood Forrest by Ineos. The National Trust is an important part of the British heritage and conservation culture. Perhaps Jim Ratcliffe and Ineos need to realise that they can only push the public so far and so can government.

    [Moderator: State corrected and link added from later comment by contributor]

    • Ineos clearly have used two organisations, the BGS and the NGS illegally to threaten landowners because The Mines (Working Facilities and Support) Act 1966 is not an assured decision because it has to be appealed in government and is not an automatic right or means of enforcement. An appeal could take years and still be contested legally.
      The BGS and the NGS will not allow their name and reputation to be used in any reference to Ineos seismic exploration and in this context have specifically forbade their names to be used at all and will not be associated with threats from FG/FGP agents to landowners.
      Clearly FG/FGP have a conflict of interest and cannot continue in one or other role in threatening activities.
      It appears the reason for mentioning the excluded official bodies has been done so to give extra weight to the threat of legal action, when in actual fact no such weight exists or has been agreed, in fact has been expressly excluded from being used as a reference.
      The question is, therefore, does the illegal reference and implied involvement of the BGS and the NGS represent legally actionable fraud and should all the existing agreements and threats of action, since they have been legally compromised and falsified, be made null and void and have to be re-negotiated with the true state of appeal only and all reference to the BGS and the NGS removed. It need not be written in any agreement, since if this was a verbal threat it still is part of the contract and coercive, and is as such an illegal act in any contract verbal or written and use of such coercion is illegal in any contract, verbal or written.
      Also it seems the word ‘bully’ has an entirely reversed meaning in UK and USA but since the word is used in this context in UK is entirely appropriate, the connotations of that are far reaching and have completely negated and reversed all PR attempts by Ineos to date.

      • No they haven’t Phil C, you and the other antis were never interested in any INEOS PR, you are against them doing anything (“completely negated and reversed all PR attempts by Ineos to date”). As a NT member I will be contacting the NT to lobby for them to allow INEOS to undertake seismic on NT land. It would appear that they will be doing this anyway.

        • How interesting, having been a NT member for more than thirty years I approved of the NT’s commitment to the promotion and use of renewable energy and resources on NT land and in their business and operational contingencies in their 2015/2016 report and have fully supported that decision throughout and understand the short and long term commitment to maintain and uphold that decision.
          For your information regarding slurs and epithets, I am not “anti” anything, rather I am pro future, pro clean renewable and sustainable future for our children and their children. They too are comitted to the same clean pollution free renewable and sustainable future and actively work towards that. I could not be more pleased and impressed that they see through all the old oligarchies and lies so early in their life. It took me well over thirty years to realise the truth and I have never regretted nor doubted that realisation and understanding for 1 second since, nor am I likely to in the future. I owe that to my family and their families, how could I look them in the eye otherwise?
          Its not about money, though I see the draw and how it compromises and corrupts the heart and soul, its about what we do now to give our future children a fighting chance.
          That is not a negative as in “anti” its a positive as in pro freedom and a clean liveable future for all. I am not agnostic or or atheist, I am not apolitical or anti technology, I am not anti anything, rather I am for full and. intelligent and forward looking advances in every aspect of human and planetary progress, only then can we meet the challenges to come face to face with heart and soul and kindness and understanding and deliberation.
          I will not tolerate the lies and the manipulation of the present dictatorial power elites and their siphoning off of all hope and dreams for a better future for their own unholy ends, i see them now, and i do not like what i see.
          That pro life future is not offered by the O &G industry exploiting onshore gas extraction and exploitation by whatever means. In fact it compromises and sacrifices the future for short term profit and that has now become an unacceptable proposition for a true sustainable renewable energy secure future for all. The massive profit motive for the few at everyone else’s expense and that of the environment, is therefore to be overtaken and superseded by exploring all the suppressed renewable technology whilst we still can.
          Not anti anything, but pro future.
          Is that clear now?

            • The question was the bullying aspect of negotiations with the landowners and whether a contract is null and void if coercion is used and proved, as appears to be the case and whether the NT allows seismic testing on NT land, it appears not.

            • Phil,
              Sorry, but I don’t understand your reply to my question. My original question relates to your statement:
              “That pro life future is not offered by the O &G industry exploiting onshore gas extraction and exploitation by whatever means. In fact it compromises and sacrifices the future for short term profit and that has now become an unacceptable proposition for a true sustainable renewable energy secure future for all.”

              Are you proposing that all onshore gas and oil development be stopped in the UK?
              Or that all onshore gas and oil development and production be stopped worldwide?
              Or that it’s OK provided it is managed effectively?
              Yes/no answers will make it easy for me to understand.

            • Phil,
              Sorry, but I don’t understand your reply to my question. My original question relates to your statement:
              “That pro life future is not offered by the O &G industry exploiting onshore gas extraction and exploitation by whatever means. In fact it compromises and sacrifices the future for short term profit and that has now become an unacceptable proposition for a true sustainable renewable energy secure future for all.”

              Are you proposing that all onshore gas and oil development be stopped in the UK?
              Or that all onshore gas and oil development and production be stopped worldwide?
              Or that it’s OK provided it is managed effectively?
              Yes/no answers will make it easy for me to understand.

              Sorry Al, i think we are so used to being attacked the moment we open our mouths that i tend to assume that there are aggressive agendas to any question on these pages, that is a mistake, but quite understandable in the circumstances.
              Anyway, lets see f i can answer your questions.

              “Are you proposing that all onshore gas and oil development be stopped in the UK?”

              No that would be like trying to uninvent the wheel or forget the discovery of nuclear fusion or fission. i would rather say try what has been started, monitor and regulate it closely with fully funded trained and committed personnel and only then allow other sites to go ahead if the process proves to be relatively harmless. Frankly i cannot see that being the case and the gung ho industry wont let it stop there anyway.

              “Or that all onshore gas and oil development and production be stopped worldwide?”

              Same answer.

              “Or that it’s OK provided it is managed effectively?”

              Absolutely, if it could be managed safely, but it isn’t being managed, monitored and handled safely, unfortunately onshore high pressure unconventional shale gas extraction by fracking is not in the least bit safe and has not and cannot be managed safely, there are too many variables. The fact that it is used elsewhere is not the issue here. We have a small window to stop this process and we would be fools not to go for that now. it really doesnt matter that it is promoted and protected by central and local government where they have overturned local pressure of opinion and where government has emasculated the planning regulations to prevent mention of any aspect that is of real concern to the public.
              What does matter is that this process where it has been started should be closely monitored by properly funded regulatory bodies who have a regular if not continuous on site presence and all emerging problems dealt with officially and complete reports made to ensure compliance. I think all other sites should be postponed until those existing sites are seen to be safe by close up inspection and regulation and the public have free and open access to all the data, so that its not hidden in red tape or delayed for months or years.

              I have explained in great length why i object to fracking in particular, it is dangerous and has been shown to be so across the world where it is allowed. We can argue statistics all day. The fact that fossil fuels at present are essential in our crumbling civilization is not actually the issue, we must use what we have wisely and that means using all available renewable resources to enable a smooth changeover when we can manage it. We must fully fund and look forward to all the aspects of renewables and a truly sustainable future in alternative energy supplies now or we leave this dreadful mess for our children and future generations to deal with and that is not acceptable.

              if you object to any of this i will understand, but i will stick to my principles in regard of fracking, it was always a backward step, we must step forwards for once in our troubled history of energy production.

        • As a NT member.

          I will also be writing to the trust to show my strong opposition to any seismic testing on their land.

          Any such decision, should be put to its members FIRST.

          • Given the amount of onshore seismic data that has already been acquired in the UK, I’d be amazed if some hadn’t already been acquired over National Trust land; you can check here https://ukogl.org.uk. I suspect you are probably a few years late with your letter.

  2. Reading the title of this piece, I thought that perhaps Ineos had bullied land owners by moving onto private property unauthorized. Now THAT would be bullying. It turns out that all they’ve done is let people know that they will use all of the legal rights to which they are entitled. Ruth, did I miss the article titled “Anti-frackers accused of bullying landowners to gain access for protest camps”?

    Oh the hypocrisy! You could cut a knife with it, it’s so thick on this site! ;o)

  3. You’re having a laugh with these headlines now. Funny that there are never any stories published here about the anti mob forcing their way onto private land without landowners permission.
    I check this website less and less nowadays which is a real pity as I like to annoy the other side just as much as they annoy me.
    Hoping that you can change the route your journalism has chosen to go for 2017 i.e. not even pretending to be on the fence.

  4. Be careful KatT, anyone can be ACCUSED of anything. To state the headline is “quite correct” without it being verified is dangerous in this day of false news.

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