IGas has posted a notice that it will apply for planning permission to test the well at its Portside exploration site at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire.
The notice says IGas will seek consent to:
- Mobilise well test equipment, including a workover rig
- Carry out a workover of the well, known as Ellesmere Port1 or EP1
- Conduct a short and longer test of the gas flow in the well
- Suspend the well
Information released following a Freedom of Information request, suggests that IGas has been planning for at least a year to test the well and had expected to avoid the need for a new planning application.
The site was granted planning permission in 2010 to drill two boreholes to explore for coal bed methane (CBM). The EP1 well was drilled under this permission in 2104.
The notice, posted on Thursday (20 July 2017), is required under Article 13 of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) Order 2015. This obliges people proposing to apply for planning permission for mineral working to inform formally the owners or tenants of land to which the application relates.
Under the order, the notice must be displayed for not less than seven days in the period of 21 days immediately before the application is made. This does not replace the public consultation period of a formal planning application (see What happens next? below).
IGas meeting with council planners
The notice has few details but Freedom of Information Act requests uncovered a meeting last year between Cheshire West and Chester Council and IGas representatives.
The notes of the meeting and email correspondence provide some information about what IGas may be planning in Cheshire.
According to council notes of the meeting on 5 August 2016, IGas had ruled out a large area of the licence area following 3D seismic surveying. It was considering development at the following sites:
- Ellesmere Port
- Ince Marsh
- Thornton (the Energy Security & Innovation Observing System for the Subsurface project)
- Mickle Trafford
- Bridge Trafford
The notes said:
“Digging into churt (above shale) to find out where shale gas lies – geologist to return, prior to app. (Ellesmere Port CBM [coal bed methane] site)
“Want to discuss how to put application(s) in; one, several, scoping, screening, consultations, press releases?”
The meeting was arranged in July 2016, by David Adams, director of IGas consultants, Axis.
In his initial email to the council, Mr Adams said the project was “highly confidential” and the team wanted to discuss it with the Development Planning Manager, “rather than Case Officer level at this stage”.
Mr Adams emailed the council again on 30 August 2016 to arrange a second meeting to talk specifically about the Ellesmere Port Portside site.
He said IGas planned to use the existing planning permission to carry out an extended well test in the Pentre Chert rock feature, rather than in the coal measures.
Mr Adams outlined the proposed operations:
- Mobilisation – 7 days, 20 Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) movements
- Testing – 30 days (10 HGVs
- De-mobilisation – 7 days (20 HGVs)
There would be a 30m workover rig and 12.2m flare on site during the testing phase, Mr Adams said.
“The test will not be undertaken in the coal measures, but will be undertaken in the Petre Chert. Any gas recovered is likely to of [sic] similar composition to CBM. There is no different surface effect caused by the differing location of the test within the well.”
Mr Adams said the proposals were a non-material amendment to the planning permission.
But Cheshire West and Chester Council disagreed. It turned down the request to meet. It said the work could not be carried out under the current planning permission and a new application was needed.
What happens next?
When submitted, IGas’s new application must be validated by council planners. This means the company has completed the application form, supplied the required information and paid the correct fee.
The application will then be posted on the council’s planning website and open for public comments. The consultation period usually lasts at least three weeks but can be six weeks or more.
DrillOrDrop will report on the contents on the application when it becomes public.