INEOS accused of “sabre-rattling” as it warns National Trust of legal action over fracking surveys

Seismic Harthill 170627 Richard How HAF2

INEOS seismic testing in Harthill in June 2017. Photo: Harthill Against Fracking

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.”

“Bullying tactics”

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.”

Seismic testing Harthill 170606 Harthill Against Fracking 4

INEOS seismic testing staff in Harthill in June 2017. Photo: Harthill Against Fracking


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.

53 replies »

  1. From these comments it appears the investors are getting nervous and rightly so. Even if the NT were to fail in a legal action (and that is by no means certain) the industry will lose the PR battle.

  2. What “investors” Barbara? How would one invest in Ineos?

    I really would suggest comments about PR battles are a little OTT when your PR is so suspect.

    The larger point is that Ineos are a multi billion £ company owned by the directors. They therefore can make decisions without reference to shareholders/investors and do so all of the time.

    I have posted many months ago that Ineos are a much more substantial player than has been involved previously, and they will not pussyfoot about, and will use the considerable leverage they have, including the legal option, if they feel it necessary. I suspect they will judge that the positive PR of a continuous stream of investment into UK industry would be able to absorb any negative PR regarding the NT. Don’t be too sure there would be that much negative PR either, a lot of the public is quite anti some of these bodies being focused upon items outside of their core function, and using public funds to do so. Remember other bodies (Church of England) have no problem with seismic surveys on their land.

  3. The National Trust holds its properties in stewardship for future generation. Industrialisation of the countryside is not in keeping with their remit. For example: the movement of lorries from one location to another spreads invasive plants, as has been shown in the Pennsylvania forests by Penn State University. Another problem would be the spread of plant diseases such as phytopthora ramorum, and acute oak decline, which can kill swathes of trees in a short time. The National Trust is right to resist the possible destruction of the property they hold, and has a strong legal case to do so.

    • Merry

      Certainly in America, this has been a problem, as vehicles have accessed areas of woodland remote to existing roads. America is a big place.

      However, in the case of clumber park, the park is bisected by public roads as well as hosting thousands of cars, hundreds of caravans and hundreds of lorries in support of the various functions held on the grounds ( this includes concerts, food shows, etc etc ).

      There may well be woodland owned by the NT which is protected, and to which vehicular access is prohibited in order to protect the woodland, but I do not think that the well driven, trodden and ‘stick and flick capital of Notts’ is one.

      Therefore, for Clumber Park, any case to exclude Seismic Survey activity on the basis of reducing vehicle movement, would seem to be weak, given the thousands of vehicles already encouraged to go there.

    • As I’ve posted upthread, there’s been plenty of seismic acquired previously over NT properties. I assume the NT should be able to provide a list of damage done previously, invasive plants now at these properties, tress dead as a result of previous seismic surveys, etc.

      • If you read the article it clearly gives an NT response:
        “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.”

  4. In response to Merry Foster : The potential for the spread of plant diseases such as phytopthora ramorum or acute oak decline would be no worse as a result of seismic exploration crews than the thousands of hikers / backpackers that visit NT property each year and could potentially spread these diseases on their feet . Merry Foster is making a very weak argument on this matter.

  5. That’s all they have left John.

    Remember this is promoted as akin to the ancient Sherwood Forest, but when they filmed the last Robin Hood they filmed most of it in the New Forest! When Merry realises why, it may help.

    I am familiar with both areas and see little in Clumber Park that needs wrapping in cotton wool.

    I have a feeling the NT will find they are not above the law.

    • There’s already been several seismic lines acquired through Clumber Park; vintage seems to be 1984, 1989 going by the line names.

  6. All these numpties haven’t heard that the world’s population is increasing and think they can hold onto their green pastures hahaha…. Suckers.

  7. As a NT member I actually disagree with the Trust preventing these surveys being carried out. The NT land belongs to all of us, not just a bunch of environmentalists who don’t even understand the technicalities of the process. The elected government has given permission for these surveys, and the majority of the public are not objecting. This is progress – would you rather have the coal mines back, with miners working under ground and regularly dying?

    • On planet earth the majority of people are objecting against fracking.

      YES we do understand the process , that’s why we are objecting to fracking. What makes you think we don’t ??

      I’m not sure what century you are talking about, but, in the 21st century, in the more developed parts of the world”people are not regularly dying” as a result of mining . Modern techniques have made mining a lot safer……. YOU are aware that the days of mining with packhorses , canary birds and children chipping away at rocks with pick axes in unstable, poorly supported mine shafts have long gone.

    • I agree with you, Beswick, the NT land belongs to all of us. Unfortunately public support for fracking is at an all time low (16%) whereas opposition is more that double that. [government survey]
      And secondly, the government has not “given permission” for these surveys – it is permitted development.
      FInally, I would not want coal mines back. I want what the public wants – more renewable energy (77% say so – from the same government survey).

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