Is INEOS planning to drill for shale gas in Sherwood Forest?


Sherwood Forest. Photo: Nilfanion (Wikimedia UK) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons]

Friends of the Earth released a document today which it says contains evidence that the chemical company, INEOS, is planning to drill for shale gas in Sherwood Forest, in Nottinghamshire.

INEOS, which has previously said it has no intention of shale gas exploration in the forest, described Friends of the Earth’s claim as “entirely false”. It accused the organisation of “increasingly erratic pronouncements” and “an attempt to create fake news”. Friends of the Earth said it had thoroughly investigated the facts.

So who is right? The answer seems to lie in your definition of Sherwood Forest – and Friends of the Earth and INEOS have different definitions.

Here’s what is undisputed:

  • INEOS Shale holds the exploration licence PEDL307
  • PEDL307 includes parts of the Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve and Sherwood Forest Country Park.
  • In an email from 22 November 2017, INEOS’s land agent referred to a site at The Lings for a potential shale gas well in PEDL307

PEDL307 (marked in yellow). Map: UK Onshore Geophysical Library

“No fracking in the forest”

In January 2017, INEOS Shale told the energy news website Rigzone:

“INEOS Shale is not fracking in Sherwood Forest.”

In a recent two-page advert in local papers, the company said:

“Despite what people may have read or heard, we have no intention of placing drilling rigs for shale wells inside the forest now or in the future”.

But Friends of the Earth said email correspondence between the land agent, FGP, and the Forestry Commission confirmed that INEOS was considering land on the western edge of Sherwood Forest.


Two potential INEOS well sites, marked by red blocks. Source: INEOS Shale

The email, released in response to a Freedom of Information request, included the map above marking two rectangular sites at The Lings, near Clipstone, between Edwinstowe and Market Warsop. Link to email


The email says:

“If you have time, please have a look at the attached before tomorrow.

“I could not email this to you before now as I needed to meet with [REDACTED] and his agent first for them to approve sending this to you”.


“The world’s most famous forest”

Friends of the Earth campaigner, Guy Shrubsole, said:

“We already knew INEOS wanted to explore for shale gas in Sherwood Forest by carrying out seismic surveys – now, despite their assurances, we see they want to drill there, too.

“INEOS appear to have no qualms about drilling in what they call ‘arguably the most famous forest in the world’, and they are prepared to mislead communities about their intentions to get what they want.”

Local resident and a member of Frack Free Sherwood, Deb Hodson, said:

“Our concerns around fracking in this area have been confirmed by INEOS themselves.

“My hope is that now the general public can see the constant discrepancies that are being put forward by INEOS, they will research for themselves how this will affect our community.”

“Misrepresented location”

INEOS told DrillOrDrop that Friends of the Earth had “completely misrepresented the location of two potential well sites”.

A spokesperson said:

“As INEOS has previously made clear, there are no plans to drill in Sherwood Forest and nothing in the documents released today contradicts that.”

“Today’s contributions from FOE can only be described as an attempt to create fake news.”

Is The Lings in Sherwood Forest?

INEOS is correct to say that the potential sites at the Lings are not in the Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve nor Sherwood Forest Country Park.


Source: Google Maps

But the sites are, as Friends of the Earth says, within the boundary of the proposed Sherwood Forest Regional Park and an area identified as “The Heart of the Forest” or “Heart of Sherwood”.


Map: Nottinghamshire County Council


Map: Sherwood Forest Visitor

Friends of the Earth is also correct to say that the sites are within the historic extent of Sherwood Forest. 800 years ago, according to the Sherwood Forest Trust, the woods and heathlands covered 46,900 hectares, stretching from Worksop to the city of Nottingham.


Map: Sherwood Forest Trust

The organisation said current OS maps indicate that The Lings is in an area named as Sherwood Forest.

But INEOS rejected Friends of the Earth’s argument. In response to a question from DrillOrDrop, the company said:

“The proposed Sherwood Forest Regional Park has a very broad catchment area including agricultural and industrial areas and even cities. The “Heart of the Forest” also appears to be a wide circle drawn around a mixed landscape area both within and outside the confines of Sherwood Forest.

“Although the potential well site you asked about does sit within those two named areas I don’t believe Friends of the Earth are making a relevant or credible point by referencing them. Areas with environmental designations are identified and excluded as part of our site screening process.”

Guy Shrubsole, of Friends of the Earth, responded:

“Damned by their own documents, INEOS have resorted to alleging ‘fake news’. What we’ve uncovered is the very opposite: the result of thoroughly investigating the facts. It is actually just called news, however unwelcome for INEOS.

“Their response does however confirm their ongoing intention to drill for shale gas at The Lings – an area that a council-commissioned report states lies within ‘the Heart of Sherwood Forest’.”

INEOS would not comment on the status of the discussions about the potential sites “for reasons of commercial confidentiality”.

But a spokesperson said:

“INEOS Shale is currently at the beginning of the process of consulting with local people on drilling locations in England. This involves hearing a multitude of different viewpoints from all sections of society including FOE. As part of this we have offered to meet with Friends of the Earth on numerous occasions to discuss the facts around our operations. This would also give us the opportunity to ask them the question, since they have endorsed the use of natural gas as a bridging fuel towards a renewable energy future, where this gas will come from?”

DrillOrDrop asked Friends of the Earth if it had been invited to a meeting with INEOS. A spokesperson said some of its individual campaigners had been tweeted by INEOS staff but there had been no formal invitation from the company. Friends of the Earth was hoping to meet INEOS and was looking for a date, the spokesperson added. INEOS later got in touch to say that it had received no convenient dates from Friends of the Earth.

Updated 17/2/2017 to include INEOS reaction on meeting dates (see final paragraph above)

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

29 replies »

  1. Enemies of industry at it again. Another none story, scaremongering. Do we live in 2017 or 1787? Is a “proposed” area a definitive area. Is this the best they can do? Lots of cash crop plantations outside the Forest?

    If you want to have a look at the area, use Google Earth and you will see what it looks like now. De-forested immediately to the west of Sherwood Forest and de-forested completely to the East – and what looks like a major industrial extraction site.

    • Unusual that FoE would try to make stuff up to scare people, right? They are desperate to find a way to stay relevant, but this is certainly not going to help matters. It will only confirm what most in the mainstream already have gathered: namely that the organization is dirty at its core and is not to be trusted.

      The upside is that if we use FoE’s standard, we can now claim that the UK has fracked onshore around a million times with little negative impact. After all, a few hundred years ago the US, Canada, South America, and Australia were all part of Britain! Love it!

  2. For those who do not know this area, this will be a desperate problem. For those of us who do, it is a fuss about absolutely nothing, but perhaps that is the level this debate has dropped to?

    Perhaps a little context would show the coal mining that had taken place in this area, in the recent past?

    • You do not live here. You are an apologist for fracking. You may even have a financial interest in it. You seem to brush aside the physical, environmental and psychological damage that mining, its conflicts and its final demise have caused to this area? You are quite OK about another destructive, invasive and divisive extractive industry being imposed? You talk out of self interest or dogma and I conclude you don’t give a damn about this area or its people.

  3. How far is this site from the boundary of the actual woodland? It looks to be next to it. Unfortunately I have not been able to check Google Earth. There are a number of key facts here – if the site is close to the exisiting forest, that is likely to be unacceptable and Ineos is splitting hairs. This would impact on amenity, public views, use and enjoyment which are all important considerations. As is the setting of the forest . Looking at the map it may be there are plans to extend the forest park and again this is relevant to any development. You do not have to carry out an industrial activity in the very centre of a forest for it to have a significant negative impact. This can impact use and enjoyment, landscape and also wildlife. Birds for example do not just stay in the forest to hunt or feed etc so the land surrounding such areas is very important. If it is of historic importance – there may well have to be an archeological brief prepared with any development/excavation observed on site.
    Admittedly I don’t know a great deal about the site but it does seem a poor choice. In my opinion I also think wanting to frack 200m from a village school is another poor choice. Neither site seems appropriate for industrial use and is bound to upset local communities and the public.

  4. KatT-do you really believe the forest still exists and Robin is about to emerge?

    This is a total non story. The area being so scrutinised is certainly NOT what you would see in any film about “Sherwood”. This is the area where the US drillers helped to keep us going during WW2 when they drilled and found oil, to take the pressure off our great merchant navy. Those old wells can still be bumped into if you drive some of the backroads. (Not sure whether that story is on Google, but it is published, and makes very interesting reading.)

    Additionally, coal mines (recently closed) spread across the area and you can still see the working men’s clubs where the miners met for their pints and darts after their long shifts. Mansfield was built around the coal industry, not bows and arrows. This area is NOT devoid of industry. Unfortunately, much of it has recently closed but real locals who remember it, would love it to return.

    I know the area well. I used to visit on business many times every year to sites right in the middle of these maps, for at least 30 years. One of my close relatives worked at a factory there. I still have friends who live in the middle of the area and even they would find it difficult to find the romantic “Sherwood”.

    However, I feel FOE will try and make a story out of it. They need to be careful though. The press has not been swayed by the posters asking for funds to “inform” the media. Many have looked at that and have made up their own minds about such information after examination. They will welcome another chance.

  5. All the INEOS apologists above appear not to live in the area and make huge assumptions about what people here think. I do live in the Mansfield area and can tell you these proposed sites are in, and on the boundary of, continuous woodland that stretches as far as the Major Oak and the Visitor centre. They are close to the historic Thynghowe Viking moot site which is well known and has a “Friends of” group locally.

    Most local people I speak to want to move on from extractive industries and develop our tourism, agriculture and new industrial bases like the digital sector. They see INEOS, with its Trump like language and itsTrump like boss, for what it is, a greedy corporate body with a record of poor treatment of workers and health, safety and pollution incidents – before it even got involved in risky fracking. It is a major player in the plastics industry – plastic pollution of our seas being one of the most serious environmental issues facing our world.

    We do not want fracking and we especially do not want the truth twisters of INEOS and their oafish thug of a boss having anything to do with our area. INEOS challenged Frack Free Notts to a debate last week on neutral ground and by all accounts got their arses handed to them, despite putting up one of their top men. If they persist in trying to Frack here they may rest assured they will face increasingly fierce resistance – it is kind of a tradition round here!

    • Paul, correct me if I’m wrong, but tourism, agriculture, and digital work all still require energy, don’t they? So, how do you propose to supply that energy if not from fracking? Should someone else do the fracking in a far off land where you don’t have to think about it, and where you give up national energy security, tax revenues, local community payments, and jobs, and where the environmental consequences are higher? Or would your area prefer to have about 100x the land impact vs. fracking by using wind and/or solar? If so, you would still rely on backup from gas or nuke or coal – how would you source that power?

      • 100x the land impact? What, offshore wind? Panels on buildings? ( Every new build should be required to have solar, and every other building should be assessed for suitability) Rightly or wrongly the government is aiming that electricity supply should be largely be supplied in the future by nuclear, solar, wind and tidal with a limited amount of fossil fuel back up. Gas for domestic and industrial use is a separate issue. We need to above all reduce and move away from gas wherever it is being sourced ( and despite all the guff about headchoppers and Russia our largest overseas supplier of gas recently has been Norway – not to far from our own domestic North Sea fuels.) It is a finite resource – not to be used in one last greedy splurge. That necessary move will be delayed for the profit of the likes of INEOS and at great cost to our environment and health if we let it.

        • Offshore wind? I didn’t think you were even suggesting something that expensive! For a moment, let’s forget about the massive subsidies that would be required. Is this your answer for all of the UK? Where will you locate all of those wind farms? I know that not all ocean locations have the greatest wind profile for generation. And will you be able to secure approvals to lay the long term transmission lines? Will homes be displaced? And what do you plan to do when the wind is not blowing and demand is high? Are you also willing to subsidize a fully-redundant backup generation capability? That backup will be non-economic of course because it will only be used when the wind doesn’t blow, so we are talking about a very large subsidy. And where will the energy supply for that backup power be sourced?

          As to solar, with a capacity factor of approximately 10%, you’ll have to do a lot more than outfit every local home with solar panels. In fact, that might help satisfy 10-15% of demand, and it would be monumentally expensive.

          People are already struggling with high electricity prices. Many die from fuel poverty each year. Are you willing to sacrifice more lives to pursue your expensive and risky system?

          • Why do you always try to pretend that those who oppose fracking want to power everything from one or two energy sources, when it will obviously be a mix? As for fuel poverty – aside from this being a result of the rapacious corporate capitalism symbolised by big beasts like INEOS and the gouging private energy companies, one of the easiest and cheapest ways to reduce fuel poverty would be a massive insulation programme and proper intervention in the housing market to make sure all new homes are maximum energy efficient. Governments can do a great deal if they have a will. Currently the fossil fuel industry globally enjoys massive subsidies and govt favours, not surprising in the U.K. – a considerable number of leading Tories have fossil fuel links or investments. The planet needs to move away from fossil fuels, and inequalities of wealth and power. A decent future requires breaking the grip of the dying fossil fuel industry.

            • I don’t pretend that it will only be one or two sources, the question is where will the incremental power supply be sourced, right? The UK has a gaping hole to be filled as coal and some nukes are retired over the next several years. There are many ways to fill that hole and they run the gamut from very expensive to very economic. Your wind and solar solutions happen to be very expensive, so if you fill the hole with them you have to pay for them, that’s all. If you only plan on filling the hole partway with them, that’s fine too, but you have to source the remainder from somewhere.

              There are no easy, fairy tale answers Paul. Any solution will have costs to the environment and to the people. It just happens that if shale gas is successful, it will be very low cost relative to wind/solar/nuclear. It will also be much less industrializing to the countryside vs. wind and solar (if sourced onshore).

              Agreed that greater investment in insulation and demand management is a good idea, but that will not fill the gap.

              Sorry that you have such a poor view on capitalism and corporations. You do realize that without them, fuel poverty would be far more acute, right?

  6. Know Jim personally do you or did you just make up that comment based on something you’ve read on your Greenpeace blog?
    How many people do you employ ?
    Where do you think you get the power and plastic from that you are currently using to vent your hot air?

    • I don’t have a Greenpeace blog. I am not a member of Greenpeace. All I know about JR is what I have seen in the mainstream media. Generally he does not seem a very nice person from his appearances on e.g. Hardtalk
      There are many sources of energy, conventional and renewable that are preferable to an entirely new phase of fossil fuel extraction with new risks.
      I don’t exploit anyone’s labour directly, no.

  7. Well Paul, all I can say is that the people I know in the area are not supporting your views at all. Equally, you can throw as much mud at Ineos as you like but they happen to employ thousands in the UK and contribute huge revenue in taxation to pay for such things as the NHS. Probably expanding into car production shortly-I wonder where that factory will be placed?
    As for the “oafish thug of a boss” I think you will find HE actually puts his money where his mouth is in terms of supporting the ecology of the planet. But perhaps you missed that one-it’s probably not in the Greenpeace posts? They were too busy suggesting he should invest in carbon free energy to produce plastics!! If you don’t see the nonsense in that, heaven help us.

    I would just point out it is the public who put the plastic into the sea, not Ineos. They also throw it all over this island, and they happen to produce vast volumes of faeces, some of which you can also find in the sea. But maybe that is the fault of food manufacturers?

    Must sign off for the weekend now. Last two Fridays it has been with the news that an energy company has just raised prices.

    This Friday I leave you with the glad tidings from Centrica-“Britain has taken a step closer to relying on imported gas after Centrica said that the country’s only sizeable storage facility may be out of action next year. It said that it could not offer storage services for the 2017 and 2018 season, partly because of the “age and condition of the assets” (Rough storage site.) Considering a recent survey clearly shows a LARGE increase in public concern regarding the SECURITY of energy supply, I suspect Jim knows what the country will be in desperate need of shortly. He could be supplying the gas to millions of household boilers, alternative energy will not. I’m not sure how long the few remaining oaks will last, if he doesn’t!

    • Ha ha – Jim’s Defender imitation vanity project is just what we would expect from a certain sort of Jeremy Clarksonite pollution freak.
      Your argument about plastic pollution is similar to the arguments of drug and arms dealers – “nothing to do with us what happens to our products”
      Signing off for the weekend? Is online INEOS apologism part of your job then?
      Anyhow, none of this changes the fact that INEOS have been caught out once again being economical with the truth. No locals define Sherwood Forest as just the area round the visitor centre and Major Oak, and all the shills on here know it! So the pleas of earlier months that no drilling was being looked at in Sherwood Forest was just trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes.

  8. By the way Paul, for someone who lives in the area you need to get out and about a bit more! Or, if you don’t, avoid too much in your posting which suggests you don’t! Your comments about developing other industries in the area would be fine, but then you spoil it by trying to be specific and some of the specifics are just plain nonsense to anyone who has detailed knowledge of the area and detailed knowledge of an industry. Please don’t suggest I assume anything. Neither do I get my knowledge off the Internet.

    Really am off for the weekend now.

  9. I get about locally quite a bit and have good knowledge of the local labour market and development plans, not restricted to “one industry”, for your information.

  10. Well Paul, your comments about agriculture in the area would show that is just not correct. You certainly made a farmer I spoke to who has farmed in the area for the last 30 years or so suggest an eye test might be in order!

    If you want to advise tourists I suggest you direct them to the Imperial War Museum. They will find out a lot more about where Sherwood Forest is, and the same with the New Forest (although visitors to the latter will find a bit more left.) Most of the “forest” in the area we are referring to is now conifer, in many cases to help agriculture (which you feel needs developing) from having the soil blown away! You can actually observe that quite clearly in the summer.

    I can not speak for Ineos in respect of operations outside of Grangemouth, but I know many businesses in that area and they discussed with me the problems of the site with regard to low investment and union problems. They were anticipating closure for at least the last three decades and whilst many would not have been directly impacted they knew the whole area would be decimated with closure. Jim Ratcliffe has changed that, he had to be tough with the unions and Gordon Brown did his best to finish his business but he survived and grew and has invested huge sums, as he said he would. He will not get involved in vanity projects, and his safety record is MUCH better than agriculture, which you seem to think is a good alternative.

    But, just have a word with Refracktion. He will be able to inform you that Jim doesn’t know anything about economics and did not make a profit of 4.3 billion Euros in 2016. I know it is not the done thing for a British guy to build a company like that which makes that sort of profit, before you even calculate the tax taken from employees and suppliers, but it helps a great deal to supply the subsidies that most alternative energy schemes require.

    Signed off for the weekend? Trip to a funeral actually [Edited by moderator].

    • Sorry to hear that you were at a funeral.
      You will not convince me that Ratcliffe is a good man, or that the current model of corporate capitalism is a good or sustainable one – it has led to massive inequalities of wealth and power that are leading to conflict all around the world even as we type. It is based upon never ending exploitation of finite resources and offloading of costs onto the population and the environment.

      Governments thinking that they can only go forward by giving the entrepeneurs and corporations everything they wanted and letting them do almost what they wanted (and then hoping that the resulting tax could pay for social programmes and healthcare) is what has led to us sitting on a social volcano of popular discontent that is partially finding expression in things like Brexit, Trump and the rise of the far right. If you let the rich and powerful think they are in control they will want more and more until democracy becomes first a fiction (look at the overriding of local democratic will in terms of national planning). And then, when they have shifted the balance enough to get someone like Trump in power, then democracy, civil liberties and rights become a hindrance that I suspect they want to just get rid of.

      On agriculture – it is quite possible to envisage a different kind of agriculture, mixed with forestry, tourism and leisure and other land uses that is not the soil exhausting corporate agribusiness model. Indeed, in areas of this and other countries where farmers have diversified away from mass monoculture they seem to have found a more sustainable model. Our soil does present challenges locally, but not insurmountable.

      Anyhow, that is just one area of employment. Do we really believe that the only way of maintaining employment and living standards in this part of the country is more extractive industry – only this time with a much shorter life span and in a time where the shift must be made away from fossil fuels?

      The big picture is that modern, energy intensive lifestyles are unsustainable, particularly if everyone aspires to them. We are hitting the natural limits. Fracking is to be opposed not only as a danger and an imposition by the power of rich men and their lust for profit, but as a line in the sand, a way of forcing change. It has to stop somewhere, unfortunately for those who are invested in it, many of us have decided that the place it stops is fracking.

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