Live updates from the second meeting to discuss Egdon’s application for 15 years of oil production at Lodge Farm, Broughton and Appleby, near Scunthorpe. The scheme includes the techniques of acidisation and proppant squeeze.
A previous meeting of North Lincolnshire Council’s planning committee on 11 January (see DrillOrDrop report) refused the application on the grounds that the officers report did not have enough information.
This time, as in January, planning officers have recommended approval of the scheme, which is virtually unchanged. Three councillors who expressed reservations about the application are members of the committee today.
The committee is also considering an application to extend the current planning permission for 12 months.
Variation of condition 24 – second application
Vote to refuse
5 councillors vote to refuse the application to extend the current application by 12 months. 4 vote to approve the application.
Vote to approve
4 councillors vote to approve the application to extend the current application by 12 months, 5 oppose.
Discussion on extending the current permission
Cllr Mick Grant
“I can see no reason to remove this site. I move the officers recommendation”
Ward councillor statement on extending current permission
Cllr Holly Mumby-Croft
“I can see no reason to extend this permission and I ask you to refuse this application”
Speakers for the application to extend the current permission
Paul Foster, Egdon planning consultant.
Mr Foster says the application is to increase the duration of the permission for a year.
The deadliine for the permission was April 2017, he says, and Egdon is seeking to extend this for another year. The company has appealed against the January 2017 refusal of permission for production and the outcome of that challenge is not expected until early 2018.
The application would allow the well site to stay in place for 12 months and allow Egdon to do groundwater monitoring. The application does not propose changes to the restoration scheme, Mr Foster says.
The principal of the well site is already established, Mr Foster says. Retaining the wellsite for a further 12 months would have no impact on environment, amenity or highway safety. It would ensure that the site would be restored in a reasonable time.
Speakers against the application to extend permission
Norman Hague speaking for Linda Beck
Mr Hague says Mrs Beck objects to the application because of its impact on the environment.
Committee chairman Cllr Sherwood interrupts Mr Hague to say he is speaking to the wrong application. Another opponent of the application is refused permission to speak because they are not on the chairman’s list.
The developers have already had three years to complete the work, Ms Clayton says. Drilling started in July 2014 and oil was identified. Testing in 2015 confirmed commercially-viable reserves. The site was described as a exploratory.
Ms Clayton says the planning authority has already issued enough time for work, originally scheduled to take 39 weeks. The company should not assume it would get an extended permission. This amounts to pre-determining the application to come, she says.
The original planning statement justified the scheme’s acceptability because it would have a temporary environmental impact, she says. The landscape impact would be limited to three years maximum and no further screening of the site was required.
“I hope the council will refuse the application. Egdon has had enough time to carry out the exploratory work.”
Dr Kate Simpson
Researcher, Dr Simpson, says:
“I oppose the application.The aim of the scheme is the long-term extraction of hydrocarbons and this will lead to increased CO2 emissions.”
Dr Simpson says the scheme contradicts local, national and international policies and plans.
“We have a global commitments to cut carbon emissions. To meet climate targets we must go beyond ‘business as usual'”.
Mrs Williams says she is overwhelmed by the committee’s vote
Mrs Williams says she has attempted to contact Egdon five times and had one response.
Most people in the area were unaware of what is planned because the company had said it was not proposing fracking. It is not high volume, she says, but it is high pressure and it is unusual fracking. She urges the committee to refuse the application
Vote for refusal of production
Seven of the 10 councillors vote to refuse. No hand count is made on councillors in favour of the application.
Discussion on production application
Cllr Haque Kataria
He says he is happier with the application than the previous one.
Cllr Ivan Glover
Cllr Glover (left) recommends refusal. The reasons for refusal have not changed from the previous meeting, he says.
Cllr Mick Grant
Cllr Grant (right) says the application is much better this time. But he says there’s not enough information to be confident that this is the right thing to do.
He says there’s a vast amount of information but this doesn’t help him.
“It clouds my mind. I will be proposing to refuse”.
Local ward councillor statements on application for oil production
Cllr Ivan Glover
He says he asked for the application to be discussed by the committee because he wanted to bring the issue into the public domain.
Cllr Holly Mumby-Croft
Cllr Mumby-Croft, who voted against the application at the previous meeting in January, says:
“I have not heard anything today that makes me change my mind”
She says she is concerned about the impermeable membrane and gas production from the site. She says she is amazed that Egdon would come to the committee with no details of where the water is coming from.
She asks the committee to refuse the application.
Speakers in favour of the application for oil production
Paul Foster, planning consultant
Paul Foster outlines the measures that the company would take to prevent threats to surface water or soils. He says an impermeable membrane is a key way to prevent leaks. The membrane will be repeatedly tested, he says, to ensure it will not leak. Surface water will be tested throughout the project and the results reported to the Environment Agency.
He says under the aquifer there is an impermeable 240m thick rock layer which prevents vertical movement between the oil reservoir and the groundwater aquifers. There is negligible risk to groundwater, he says. Four groundwater boreholes will be used to monitor any impact on groundwater.
Egdon recognises the importance of British Steel’s water abstraction boreholes. There was no impact on them during drilling and testing at Wressle. Egdon met with representatives of British Steel, which had objected when the application was first discussed last year. Egdon has demonstrated there would be no impact on the water quality or volume for British Steel, Mr Foster says. British Steel has withdrawn its objection.
On air quality, Mr Foster says neither flaring or dust would have a “significant impact”.
The proposal involves conventional oil production, with negligible environmental impact, he says. There would be a negligible risk to ground or surface water. There would be rigorous oversight from the minerals authority, Environment Agency and other regulators.
The proppant squeeze and the acidisation would be carried out only once, he says. The award of an environmental permit proves the application could be carried out safely. The application meets national and local planning policy, he says.
Jonathan Foster, planning and safety consultant
Jonathan Foster says there is a robust regulatory regime for the onshore oil and gas industry.
He says the Environment Agency has approved the proposed activities at the site by granting a new permit. The acidisation is classified by the EA as de-minimis [having no significance] for groundwater, he says.
Proppant squeeze could lead to indirect or direct risks to groundwater, according to the EA, Mr Foster says. But he says the process would be carried out in rocks where no groundwater is present. The fluids used in the proppant squeeze have been approved as non-hazardous to groundwater, Mr Foster adds.
He says the Health and Safety Executive regulates the integrity of the well. He cites a regulation which, he says, reduces risk to the environment to “as low as possible.” The construction of the well is key to preventing damage to the environment, he adds.
Mr Foster rejects suggestions that Egdon is proposing to carry out an unusual form of fracking or a process that is novel in the industry.
“It is not an experiment. The application proposes standard industry practices, including acidisation and proppant squeeze, which have been carried out across the UK without risk. It is not unfamiliar to those tasked with regulating it or receiving the waste.”
Mr Foster says the committee should assume that other regulators will do their jobs properly.
Mark Abbott, Managing Director of Egdon
Mr Abbott says acidisation and proppant squeeze will be used to improve flow in the well.
Acidisation will be undertaken first to unblock perforations in the well. The acid will move 6-8m from the well. If needed, the proppant squeeze will then be carried out. Both will be undertaken only once. If they don’t work, a side-track will be drilled.
In acidisation, Mr Abbott says, hydrofluoric acid will be formed inside the well and will not be transported to the site. The mix will not be pumped into the formation at pressures to cause the rocks to fracture. It is matrix acidising, not acid fracking, he says. Once the treatment has been carried out there will be no acid on the site.
Mr Abbott says proppant squeeze is smaller in scale than fracking and for a different purpose. It has been carried out across the UK, including at Crosby Warren, he says. It takes two days, and uses less water than fracking. The fluid will reach up to 20m from the well. The fluid is not hazardous to groundwater and the Environment Agency would not issue a permit if there were a threat to groundwater. The process would be used a mile underground.
“We are confident there is no risk to shallow groundwater”
Paul Foster, planning consultant
Paul Foster, a planning consultant at Barton Willmore, thanks the officers for their report, which recommends approval of the application.
He says the Wressle plan has been granted an environmental permit.
The well was drilled in 2014 and tested in 2015. There were no complaints to the company or the council during these operations, he says. 2.14 million barrels of oil are potentially recoverable from Wressle, he says.
We all need oil and gas, he says, for feedstocks and fuel. It is far better to produce this domestically than import it. We need to maximise all our domestic energy sources. He says:
“Egdon is seeking to produce oil conventionally. There is no intention to undertake high volume hydraulic fracturing. There is no potential for shale gas at Wressle.
“The prime target is oil. Any gas produced will be used to provide energy at the site.”
Speakers opposing the production application
Ms Turner says there are unacceptable risks because of earthquakes in the area, which number up to two a month.
A large gas pipe runs the route that the lorries will take, she says. There are bends on the road where the lorries cannot see each other.
Air pollution caused 40,000 deaths in the UK last year, Ms Turner says. New research from the University of Edinburgh among others proves that particulates rapidly travel from the lungs into the bloodstream and then into the liver.
Chemicals and particulates, particularly from flaring 10 tonnes of gas a day, will travel sideways in the atmosphere to a larger area than just Scunthorpe and Brigg, she says.
“It will be very costly to the health services.”
The chemicals that will be used to create hydrofluoric acid will be carried on the road. This will be a first in the UK. There must be no loopholes. This acid will extract radioactive material from the well, she says.
Recent TV coverage prove the lack of due diligence by local authorities which will prove very costly. She adds of the application:
“No guarantee of where the oil is going. No bond to protect anyone of us. The taxpayer will fund any damage.”
Elizabeth Williams, Frack Free Lincolnshire
Elizabeth Williams tells the committee:
“We cannot allow an experimental form of fracking”.
She says Egdon is proposing an unusual form of low volume, high pressure fracking into sandstone. But it doesn’t have to be called fracking because it is not into shale and is not high volume.
She says researchers have defined the proposed process as unconventional and as a form of fracking.
Pressure would be 5,000 pounds per square inch and would applied to a 2.5km deviated well a mile underground. There would be an array of hazardous chemicals, including hydrofluoric acid for the acidisation, to stimulate poor flow. Mrs Williams says:
“This is a novel process onshore”
“There is an unacceptable impact on the environment and health of people in the local area. It conflicts with North Lincolnshire Council’s priorities.”
Egdon’s desk top studies are “very flimsy” when it comes to assessing risk, Mrs Williams says. When there are such concerns, we should take the precautionary principle for local residents and the commitments to climate change. She asks the committee:
“Please take the precautionary principle. Please observe your duty of care and refuse this application.”
Martin Foster, Unite trades union
Mr Foster, a British Steel union representative, opposes the application. He says the promise to stop operations in the event of seismic activity may not stop damage to the British Steel water supply borehole.
He says he has talked to Egdon representatives and he is pleased that groundwater will be monitored. But he says by the time the results of monitoring are known the damage would have been done. Monitoring is reactive, he says.
Mr Foster says Egdon has already drilled through a fault. The fault was responsible for a 5-magnitude earthquake at Market Rasen. He questions the life and durability of the impermeable membrane. He adds:
“We should be encouraging green energy alternatives to the search for more fossil fuels”.
Ms Clayton says the cutting of red tape in the onshore oil and gas industry has allowed companies to self-monitor. They can choose which figures to submit to the regulators. In effect, they are marking their own homework, she says.
There are only four monitoring boreholes for this site, she says. She asks how the application can be approved if no waste treatment facility are earmarked. There are none that are capable of dealing with such toxic and radioactive material, she says.
The application is for 15 years but the world will look very different in that time. She refers to clean energy developments in the area, along with energy connectors to European countries and local small-scale generating schemes. London has more vehicle charging points than filling stations, Ms Clayton adds.
There are still estimated 200bn barrels in the North Sea if we want a bridge to a clean energy future, Ms Clayton says. But the government is penalising other energy forms in favour of the “accident prone” onshore industry.
Resident Andrew McLeod said many issues that concern objectors to the application are not addressed in the officers’ report. He says a report on unconventional oil and gas operations by the Natural Environmental Research Council called for more research because of, among other issues, a “poor understanding” of the migration of fluids sub-surface. This needs to be assessed and monitoring needs to be refined, the report concludes.
Mr McLeod there is a “deeply troubling list of known unknowns”. He says Egdon’s proposed monitoring is inadequate. He says assurances of safety should be treated with “extreme caution” and the application should be refused.
He says there is a lack of information about the deviated well and its relationship with the principal aquifer. Without this, the risk cannot properly be assessed.
There is no provision for monitoring the principal aquifer and the monitoring proposals are inadequate, he says.
“This is a risky experiment that could damage the environment.
“Please reject this application and let scientists conduct this experiment, not Egdon”.
Planning officer update
20 further letters of objection received since the officers’ report had been published. These include the following issues: No confidence in regulatory control, potential contamination of aquifer and concern about continued use of fossil fuels
Cllr Nigel Sherwood (left), the Conservative chair of the planning committee, opens the meeting.
Officials take their seats in the council chamber
Opponents enter the Civic Centre for the meeting
Small demonstration outside North Lincolnshire Council
Opponents of Egdon’s application gather outside the civic centre. Frack Free Lincolnshire is one of the speakers against the application.