INEOS has confirmed it will begin seismic surveys for shale gas next month in parts of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Rotherham Metropolitan Borough.
The surveys will cover a total of 250.7 km2. They are expected to begin on 5 June and last for up to six months.
In a formal notification to Nottinghamshire County Council, INEOS said the surveys would not be carried out in a range of protected areas, including Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve.
The historic estate at Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire, where the National Trust has refused access, is also excluded from the survey area.
INEOS said the 3D surveys would give it a better understanding of geology and rock formations which may contain shale gas. And this would help the company identify future sites for shale gas development.
Companies that want to carry out longer-term seismic surveys must notify the mineral planning authority 28 days before the work starts. But formal planning permission is not usually needed because under planning rules seismic surveying counts as “permitted development”.
Nottinghamshire County Council’s planning manager, Sally Gill, said:
“Subject to certain restrictions, INEOS is allowed to undertake the seismic survey without planning permission in line with national planning rules. However, any further development, including test drilling to explore for shale gas below ground, will require full planning permission.
“The County Council welcomes the decision by the company to avoid undertaking any surveying within the Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve and other areas of special environmental interest.”
INEOS told Nottinghamshire that 142.57 km2 of the survey area was in its council area. Another 90.8 km2 was in Derbyshire and 17.32 km2 in Rotherham.
Formal notifications have been sent to Derbyshire and Rotherham councils, the company confirmed. But at the time of writing, documents relating to surveys in these council areas have not been made public.
In documents sent to Nottinghamshire County Council, INEOS said it would not carry out surveying in:
- Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve
- EU-designated Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas
- Sites of Special Scientific Interest, including Thoresby Lake, Welbeck Lake, Hills and Holes and Sookholme Brook, Warsop
There will also be no surveying within 50m of any scheduled monuments. Surveying would also not take place within 50m of homes, 8m of streams, rivers or ponds and 30m of badger sets.
Seismic surveying works by creating soundwaves into the ground and recording how they return. The soundwaves are created at source or shot points by either detonating small underground explosive charges or by dropping a pad from a vibroseis machine, sometimes called a thumper truck. The vibrations travel through rock layers and where the rock type changes they are reflected back to the surface. Microphones at the receiver points record how the soundwaves travel.
Seismic surveying does not include hydraulic fracturing or fracking.
INEOS said work would take place from 7am-7pm, seven days a week. Explosive charges would be limited to 2kg. No structures used in the surveys would be higher than 15m and no holes would exceed 10m deep or 12m2 in surface area.
The survey area takes in petroleum exploration licences (PEDLs) 299, 300, 304, 307, 308 and 309, all awarded to INEOS under the 14th round.
Access to land
Under the terms of INEOS’s licence agreements in the East Midlands, INEOS must carry out a total of 550 km of 2D surveys and 575 km2 of 3D surveys. It must also drill 11 vertical wells and 4 horizontal wells which will be fracked.
So far, INEOS has been refused access to land by the National Trust at Clumber Park and by a number of local authorities (DrillOrDrop report) But the company said at this stage 91% of the landowners it had contacted about access had given permission.
Nottinghamshire County Council is expected to discuss next month the company’s request to survey on seven council-owned or leased sites. The issue is likely to come before the council’s Finance and Property Committee at a meeting on 19 June.
“Fracking isn’t wanted or needed” – Friends of the Earth
Guy Shrubsole, campaigner for Friends of the Earth, responded to the news:
“INEOS have spun this the best they could, but they’re still exploring for shale gas in Sherwood Forest – local residents, historians and Nottinghamshire Council all agree on that. And they’ve still not ruled out their plans for a test drill at The Lings within Sherwood Forest.
“The fact that INEOS have backed off surveying in Clumber Park – after previously threatening the National Trust with legal action if they didn’t give them access – shows that standing up to fracking bullies works.
“Fracking isn’t wanted and isn’t needed. Every single parish council that INEOS have approached so far has rejected their surveys. Friends of the Earth will stand with local residents to fight INEOS’ fracking plans every step of the way.”
Advert for seismic survey staff
The logistics company, Arturius International Ltd, is recruiting staff to work on the INEOS seismic surveys.
An advert said ex-service personnel were preferred.
Candidates must be self-employed, sole traders or prepared to be self-employed and be prepared to work 12 hour days Monday-Saturday. Pay is £90 a day, equivalent to the minimum wage. Own transport is preferred.