INEOS Shale sent the National Trust a pre-action legal letter yesterday warning of court action over access to land in Nottinghamshire.
The company wants to carry out seismic testing as part of its exploration for shale gas in the East Midlands.
The Trust has refused to give INEOS permission to carry out the surveys at its 3,800 acre estate at Clumber Park because it opposes fracking.
Friends of the Earth, which campaigns against fracking, has accused INEOS of “sabre-rattling” and “bullying a national treasure”.
“Overtly political positon”
In a press statement today, INEOS said it would begin legal proceedings unless the Trust agreed to give access.
The company said it had tried to arrange a meeting and accused the Trust of refusing to respond.
INEOS’s Commercial Director, Lynn Calder, said:
“We’re asking the National Trust to speak to us about our plans. If they continue to refuse we will have no option but to seek to ask the courts for consent to carry out these surveys.
“The National Trust is taking an overtly political position against all fossil fuels. What it fails to recognise is that shale gas is 50% cleaner than coal and 30% cleaner than oil. The development of shale gas will actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Trust says no to fracking
A spokesman for the National Trust told The Worksop Guardian:
“The National Trust is opposed to fracking on its land and will reject any fracking requests or inquiries. Consistent with this, we say no to surveying on our land for fracking purposes.
“The fossil gas that fracking releases is a finite resource: non-renewable, its combustion produces greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change.”
Guy Shrubsole, of Friends of the Earth, which campaigns against fracking, said:
“This is an extraordinary piece of sabre-rattling by Ineos, who will clearly stop at nothing in pursuit of a fossil fuel that we don’t need, and that the British public don’t want.
“It’s hard to see how reasonable people will tolerate such bullying tactics against a national treasure like the National Trust.
“As protests continue, and sources of finance dry up, fracking companies appear to be resorting to more desperate tactics.”
INEOS has committed to carry out 550km of 2D and 575km2 of 3D seismic surveys as part of its licence agreements in the East Midlands with the Oil and Gas Authority.
Surveys are already underway in the area around Harthill between Sheffield and Worksop, where INEOS has applied for permission to drill a vertical well.
In the licence area which includes Clumber Park (PEDL308), INEOS must acquire 100km of 2D seismic survey and 100km2 of 3D seismic data, as well as drilling a 4,000m vertical well and fracking a horizontal well.
Seismic surveys generate sound waves using specialist trucks or buried explosives to map underground rock structures. Oil and gas companies use the information to help decide the location of well sites.
INEOS has said it will share the results of its seismic testing with the national archives.
The company also said hundreds of landowners had agreed to allow access.
But an investigation by Friends of the Earth showed that at least 14 town and parish councils had refused access for surveying. Nottinghamshire County Council had been expected to discuss this month whether to allow access to more than 142km2 of its land but the issue has been postponed until a meeting inthe autumn.
Rare legal action
The Mines (Working Facilities & Support) Act 1966 gives companies a right to access if a court agrees it is in the national interest.
INEOS said today it believed the surveys would be “firmly in the national interest and that a court would back its position”
Court action is, however, rare.
A Freedom of Information Act request by DrillOrDrop revealed that in the past 10 years, there has been only one application to acquire what are known as ancillary rights for seismic surveying. But this was withdrawn and the then Energy Secretary did not refer that application to the court for determination.