Planners at North Lincolnshire Council have recommended approval of plans to produce oil at Egdon’s Wressle site near Scunthorpe – for a second time.
Their first report backing the scheme for 15-years of production failed to convince councillors. At a meeting in January, North Lincolnshire’s planning committee refused permission saying there was not enough information to allay concerns about risks to the environment and economy. DrillOrDrop report
Since then Egdon has appealed against the refusal and submitted a new application for the same site and almost the same development. The new application is due to be discussed at a special committee meeting on Monday 3 July.
In a 70-page report published today, the planners recommended that planning permission was “merited” for the new application. They said:
“There are no material adverse impacts of the development that would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits.”
They have recommended 17 conditions covering issues such as traffic, noise, working hours, protection of wildlife and restoration of the site.
Proppant squeeze and acidisation
At the January committee, objectors to the scheme and some councillors raised concerns about two production techniques which Egdon proposed to carry out at the site: proppant squeeze and acidisation.
In a proppant squeeze, a slurry of sand and gelled water is injected under pressure through perforations in the well casing into the surrounding rocks. The sand proppant keeps the fractures open and allows oil and gas to flow out more easily.
Acidisation involves injection of acid solutions through perforations into the surrounding rocks – in this case Ashover Grit sandstone – to again improve the flow of oil or gas. Egdon said it proposed to use about 50 cubic metres of dilute hydrochloric acid, ammonium biflouride and ammonium chloride. The mixture would create hydrofluoric acid underground, dissolving particles and solids that are blocking pores in the rock and the well perforations. The company says the acid reacts with the rocks and flows back to the surface to be treated with soda ash.
Both these techniques remain in the new application. Egdon has also said it still wants to include the option of a drilling a 20-30m sidetrack off the main Wressle-1 well. But the company has removed the option of radial drilling.
The application still includes installing oil and gas production equipment, electricity generating facilities, and a tanker loading plinth and replacing a temporary storage tank containment bund with a masonry version.
Is it fracking?
Egdon said it was not applying now nor in the future to carry out high volume hydraulic fracturing. Opponents said the proppant squeeze and acidisation amounted to an unusual and untested form of fracking that could not be monitored effectively.
The planners concluded in their report:
“It is considered that the proposed development does not constitute an application for “fracking”, but relates to conventional oil and gas production.”
British Steel objected to the previous application because it was concerned that the development could affect the quality of volume of water from its nearby abstraction borehole that supplied Scunthorpe Steelworks demineralisation plan. British Steel has since confirmed that its concerns have been addressed and it has not objected to the latest application. There has also been no objection from the Environment Agency.
Broughton Town Council has objected to the application and called for more research on acidisation and proppant squeeze before a decision was made.
At the time of writing the report, planners said they had also received more than 100 letters of objection. These covered issues including the proposed operation and the impacts on climate change, groundwater, ecology, landscape, noise, air quality, public health, highways, lighting, the local economy.
The objectors include Frack Free Lincolnshire, which said today the acid would be injected through a principal aquifer.
“This is for an unusual form of fracking into sandstone not shale. All the usual major concerns over fracking apply.
“It’s only the obscene quantities of fresh water which is not applicable. Here they will use ‘only’ a tenth of the volume and therefore can slip below the radar of technical fracking.
“So the risks posed by high pressure hydraulic fracturing into deep sandstone formations using the vast array of hazardous chemicals with the addition of hydrochloric and hydrofluoric acids is arguably greater than typical fracking into shale.”
The group is organising a demonstration before the committee meeting.
2pm, 3 July 2017, North Lincolnshire Council Civic Centre, Ashby Road,
Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire, DN16 1AB. The demonstration is due to begin a 1pm.