Plans by INEOS to explore for shale gas in the greenbelt between Sheffield and Worksop are now open for comment.
The site, at Common Road, Harthill, is in an area of high landscape value and within a local wildlife site.
A public consultation by Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council runs until 21 July. Link to planning application
This is the INEOS’s second application for a vertical exploration well. The first, at Bramleymoor Lane, in the village of Marsh Lane, is being considered by Derbyshire County Council.
At Common Road, INEOS is seeking permission for five years to drill a 2,800m (9,200ft) vertical gas well, take core samples and carry out a pressure test. The application does not include fracking but the company has not ruled out submitting another proposal to frack the well in future..
The company said it chose the site because it was:
- Suitable for further detailed analysis
- Met operational requirements to drill a vertical well
- Avoided environmental constraints
- Could reduce adverse impacts on the environment, including local roads, landscape, flood risk and homes
The company said the proposal did not conflict with local or national policy. Noise levels would be low and there would be no unacceptable impacts on human health and safety. The effect on the community, recreation and amenity value of the area would be limited to an acceptable level, INEOS said. And it said highway safety requirements would be satisfied for all road users.
But there is a growing campaign against the application in the nearby village of Harthill and Thorpe Salvin.
Opponents are distributing letters of objection, arguing that the scheme would threaten local wildlife, disrupt the tranquillity of the area and open the door to further industrialisation.
There are also concerns that the proposed route to the site along Packman Lane, in places only 9ft wide, could not cope with convoys of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs).
Objectors fear the only way to accommodate 32-tonne HGV deliveries, which at times will number 70 a day, would be to remove 700-year hedgerows. Local people would be prevented from using the lane for walking, cycling, running or riding horses, they argue.
Some houses in Harthill are just one field away from the proposed site, raising concerns about light, noise and air pollution. There have also been questions about the risk to old mine workings and complaints that findings from some ecological surveys accompanying the application are either incorrect or incomplete.
Key facts in the application
Application number RB2017/0805
Applicant INEOS Upstream Ltd
Submitted 30 May 2017
Public consultation 13 June-21 July 2017
Description of development Construction of well site, including access track, mobilisation of equipment and facilities to drill a 2,800m (9,200ft) vertical hydrocarbon exploratory core well and carry out a pressure transient test. The application is for five years.
Purpose To take a core sample of target rock strata and conduct tests, logs and measurements of the shale layer
Address Common Road, Harthill, Rotherham
Exploration licence area PEDL304 where INEOS is required to drill one vertical exploration well, one horizontal well and conduct hydraulic fracturing, as well as carry out 2D and 3D seismic surveying
Distance from nearest homes About 700m
Site size 1.40ha
Access 30m from Common Road
Landscape Open farmland bounded by woodland
Landscape designations Green Belt land and Area of High Landscape Value
Wildlife Site is within Loscar Common Local Wildlife Site and 1.8km south of Chesterfield Canal Local Wildlife Site. Ancient semi-natural woodland 330m to north and connected to it by hedgerows
Nearest water Bondhay Dyke (530m to south).
Source Protection Zone (SPZ) The Cadeby Formation principle aquifer SPZ is 500m to south
Environmental Impact Assessment Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council ruled on 18 May that an EIA was not needed
Stage 1: Site Development and Establishment – approximately three months
- Surveys and fencing – 2 weeks
- Development of road access, track and parking – 2-3 weeks
- Site clearance, levelling, addition of hardstanding, well cellar, impermeable membrane and creation of drainage ditches, addition of surface aggregate, and installation of ground water monitoring boreholes – 4-5 weeks
- Installation of conductor/surface casing – 3 weeks
- Completion of site works, including security measures and lighting – 1-2 weeks
Hours Monday-Friday 7am-7pm, Saturday 7am-1pm, No Sunday or bankholiday working except for installation of conductor and surface casing.
Staff 10 plus 2 security
Stage 2: Mobilisation, drilling, coring, testing, suspension and demobilisation – 5 months
- Mobilisation and assembly of rigs – 2 weeks
- Drilling and coring – up to 12 weeks
- Pressure Transient Testing using workover rig – up to 7 weeks
- Suspension and demobilisation – 2 weeks
Hours Assembly, drilling, coring, testing and suspension 24 hours a day; deliveries: Monday-Friday 7am-7pm, Saturday 7am-1pm
- Maximum dimensions: height – 60m, length 32m, width 12m
- Weight 350 tones
- Vehicle movements: 152, including 12 abnormal loads
- Overall sound power level – 113dB
Pressure transient test
The cased well would be perforated at the target depth and a packer lowered into the well from a workover rig. A solution of potassium chloride would be squeezed into the formation at the target zone. The test zone would be closed off and pressure monitored for up to two weeks. The process would be repeated in up to two more target zones.
Stage 3: Maintenance of the Suspended Well Site – up to five years
Following completion of the PTT, the well would be suspended. A workover rig or wireline truck and other equipment, along with waste, would be removed from site.
Stage 3a: Possible workover of the suspended well – up to one month
This stage is included as a contingency and would be required only if the well required to be re-entered for maintenance.
Stage 4: Use of the Well as a Listening Well – up to five weeks
Listening devices would be inserted into the well to record seismic activity if nearby wells were fracked.
Stage 5 Abandonment (Decommissioning) and Restoration – approximately two months
INEOS said construction noise may be audible but impacts were expected to be negligible. Traffic noise would be very low and likely to be imperceptible, the company said.
Drilling and coring activities were expected to be below 42 dB LAeq (free field) noise limit for night at the nearest home. Daytime drilling and coring noise would be “well below” the planning guidance limit of 55 dB for day time and evening at the nearest home, INEOS said.
The application estimated 60 daily HGV movements during site development and drilling, coring and pressure testing.
The company proposes to route traffic off the M1 at junction 30, follow the A619 Worksop Road to Norton. The remaining 4.5km is on Bondhay Lane, Packman Lane and Common Road. It said there were fewer than five homes on this part of the route.
Traffic management measures would be needed on the route, INEOS said, but the development would not have a material impact on the highway network.
On the A619, the increase in traffic would be less than 1% above the current baseline, the company. On Bondhay Lane and Common Road, the traffic increase would be more than 10% above the baseline. But INEOS said: “a route management plan providing formal passing places and other traffic management measures would be sufficient to mitigate any impact of the development.”
INEOS said the site accounted for 0.5% of the total area of the local wildlife site. The company said this level of loss for a five-year period was not considered to be significant. It proposed to plant native hedgerows to fill gaps on the southern site boundary and leave a 30m buffer zone between the drill pad and woodlands or hedgerows. Field boundaries could be planted with species-rich tussocky grassland to provide habitat for birds such as corn bunting. The application said:
“The habitats that will be temporarily impacted are of low ecological value and taking account of standard mitigation and pre-construction surveys no further detailed surveys are required.”
The application accepted that there would be substantial effects on landscape up to 1km away during site development, when a 32m conductor rig and 60m drilling rig were on site, and during decommissioning and restoration. The effect of the drilling rig would be minor at distances of 2km and negligible beyond 3km, the company said.
People living on the south east edge of Harthill would be most affected, INEOS said. Carr Farm, Grange Farm and Loscar Farm and the village of Thorpe Salvin would experience moderate effects during drilling, coring and pressure testing. There would be substantial effects for users of Common Road and Harthill Field Road.
The application said there would be neutral effects on the shallow groundwater quality of surrounding area, biodiversity and water resources. This was because of the design of the well and the use of well casings, geomembranes, checks, water-based drilling muds and storage methods.
Archaeology and cultural heritage
INEOS said the site was not likely to be visible from historic centres of Harthill and Thorpe Salvin, except for when 60m drilling rig is on site. The impact on cultural heritage was not considered to be long-term.
During drilling, there would be emissions to air from vehicle and equipment exhaust fumes, as well as dust and potentially methane, the application said. Road traffic would also generate emissions but not enough to trigger air quality assessment thresholds. On-site generators and the drilling rig would produce NOx, SOx, PM10 and PM2.5, CO and VOCs. There would also be dust from site preparation, construction and vehicle passage on access road.
INEOS said the potential contribution to national greenhouse gas emissions would be negligible.
Previous workings have already collapsed, the application said, and development was unlikely to have an impact on wider ground stability issues.