Regulation

Hundreds oppose IGas Ellesmere Port testing plan as comment deadline approaches

Ellesmere port 1

More than 450 people have signed a petition opposing plans by the shale gas company, IGas, to test its well at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire.

The petition, hosted by Ellesmere Port Frack Free, was launched as the public consultation on the planning application entered its final week.

At the time of writing, 467 people had signed the petition. Three local Labour MPs have reaffirmed their opposition to fracking following the publication of the application.

IGas drilled the well at Portside North in 2014, after being granted permission to explore and produce coal bed methane.

DrillOrDrop reported earlier this month on a dispute between the company and Cheshire West and Chester Council over the permitted depth of the well.

The council said the well had approval to be drilled to 900m, the depth of coal measures. But the company said this was a minimum depth and confirmed that the well reached the shale layers at 1,949m, more than 1,000m deeper.

IGas said it now wants to test the potential for gas production in the Pentre Chert rock formation, a sedimentary rock formed from silicon dioxide, found at a depth of 1,795m-1,849m.

If approved, the scheme would involve at least 88 days of flaring and a total of nearly 500 heavy goods vehicle movements.

Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWAC) said the public consultation on the application closes on 31 August 2017 but it will consider comments made up to the date of the decision.

DrillOrDrop understands the application is not expected to be discussed by the CWAC planning committee earlier than its meeting on 10 October 2017.

“Negligible impacts”

IGas said in its application:

“This proposal accords with relevant national and local planning policies. The UK Government supports the appraisal of indigenous oil and gas reserves to maintain security of supply.

“The Applicant concludes that any impacts associated with this proposal will be negligible and short in duration”.

The company said it was not seeking permission to frack and that the Pentre Chert was not shale.

“Community safety concerns”

But local MPs, Justin Madders (Ellesmere Port), Chris Matheson (Chester) and Mike Amesbury (Weaver Vale) told the Chester Chronicle they opposed the application, saying they were representing the community’s safety concerns.

Frack Free Dee supported the MPs comments. It said:

“Exploratory drilling and well testing is a hazardous process. It is the precursor to full scale gas production using high volume fracking and would lead to the further development of numerous other sites throughout Cheshire and the region as a whole.

“The consequences of fracking include the industrialisation of the surrounding countryside, negative impacts on health, increased risk of water and land contamination, a further increase in already poor air quality, considerable increases in HGV movements, additional use of precious resources such as water, and the advancement of climate change.

“It is a short-term industry that brings long term negative impacts to the communities who are forced to live with it.

“We demand that all those involved in the decision-making process take seriously the growing and damning evidence in relation to fracking and the negative health, environmental and climate change impacts that it brings. We also condemn any misinterpretation or misrepresentation by any party or body of the planning process which allows due process to be accelerated or bypassed to bring an unwanted and unnecessary industry into our communities.”

Ellesmere Port plan 5

Diagram of the Ellesmere Port-1 well. IGas

Details of the application

The information in this section is collated from the planning application and from information provided by Frack Free Dee.

Application reference: 17/03213/MIN
Site address: Ellesmere Port Wellsite, Portside North, Ellesmere Port

Proposal: To mobilise well test equipment, including a workover rig and associated equipment, to the existing wellsite to perform a workover, drill stem test and extended well test of the hydrocarbons encountered during the drilling of the EP1 well, followed by well suspension. The proposal does not involve drilling or deepening the existing well or hydraulic fracturing

Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence: PEDL184
Nearest town: The site is 1.7km from Ellesmere Port town centre and 4km west of Stanlow Oil Refinery
Nearest homes: About 400m from the well site
Nearest industrial unit: Less than 100m from the well site
Nearest designated wildlife site: 270m from the Mersey Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest
Size of site: 0.96ha
Environmental Impact Assessment: IGas considers it is a non-EIA development

Planning history of the site

October 2009
Nexon Exporation applied to CWAC for permission for two exploratory boreholes for coal bed hydrocarbon appraisal and production. It was assessed as non-EIA development

15 January 2010
Planning consent granted by CWAC Council under delegated powers

2011
Well site constructed

November 2014
Ellesmere Port 1 well drilled to 1,949m later and suspended

Stages of the proposed operations

1. Site preparation and mobilisation of well test equipment, workover rig

Duration: 7 days
Hours per day: 12
Working hours: 7am-7pm Monday-Sunday
Total HGV movements: 90
Total light goods vehicles (LGV) and cars: 80

2. Drill Stem Test (DST) and well completion

DST is a short test to provide an initial analysis of hydrocarbon composition and flow characteristics. Well completion is the process of installing downhole equipment into the well in order to allow hydrocarbons to flow from the Pentre Chert formation into the well. This stage requires a 33m workover rig, 12.2m flare and four portable lighting towers

Duration: 28 days
Hours per day: 24 seven days a week
Total HGV movements: 162
Total light goods vehicles (LGV) and cars: 448

Demobilisation of workover rig will require another 90 HGV movements.

3. Extended Well Test (EWT)

The EWT analyses the flow characteristics of hydrocarbons over longer time. It uses similar equipment to the DST but the 12.2m flare is replaced by an 8.2m flare and requires three portable lighting towers.

Duration: 60 days
Hours per day: 24 seven days a week
Total HGV movements: 120
Total light goods vehicles (LGV) and cars: 960

4. Well suspension

Duration: 2 days
Hours per day: 24 seven days a week
Total HGV movements: 20

5. Demobilisation of well test equipment

Duration: 7 days
Hours per day: 12
Working hours: 7am-7pm Monday-Sunday
Total HGV movements: 90
Total light goods vehicles (LGV) and cars: 84

Key issues

Traffic

IGas said traffic traveling to the wellsite would be routed along Merseyton Road, Portside North and then turn right into the wellsite.

On traffic volumes, IGas said:

“The wellsite is located on an industrial area and the modest short term increase in HGV movements should not have any effect on normal traffic flows along Portside North. A banksman will be present on site during the operations and will ensure traffic moves freely from the site. The traffic impact of the proposed development should not be severe and, as such, is not be expected to have a detrimental impact on road safety, or highway capacity.”

Planning policy

IGas says national policy supported the application, in particular the government’s Shale gas and oil policy statement 2015, the National Planning Policy Framework and Planning Practice Guidance on minerals.

Consultation

IGas said it had visited or informed local businesses, local councillors and the MP. A drop-in event was also held at the Holiday Inn, Ellesmere Port, last week.

Ecology

IGas said an updated survey concluded that “the proposed development will not result in any significant effects on ecology”. Frack Free Dee said the site was 270m from the Mersey Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Noise

IGas said during the 14-day flaring period of the DST predicted noise levels would exceed the threshold for significant effect at two locations.  The company said noise would be reduced by restricted flow to the flare. There would be a programme of noise monitoring, it said.

Visual impact and amenity

The biggest visual impact will be when the workover rig and flare are on site, IGas said. It added:

“The existing wellsite benefits from its location within an established industrial area surrounded by large industrial units with typical heights in excess of 10m. The mature landscaping to the side of the port railway line also provides natural screening for the site, as does mature screening to the south and part of the eastern boundaries.”

For people living nearby, the company said:

“there is no adverse impact on amenity as a result of the proposal”.

Water

The wellsite is above the Sherwood Sandstone principal aquifer with a high groundwater vulnerability. It is, however, not in a groundwater protection zone and there are no licensed groundwater abstraction sites within 1km, IGas said.

Air quality

IGas said an air quality impact assessment found that the maximum predicted environmental concentrations were below the standards for human health. But Frack Free Dee says Ellesmere Port has already been registered as an Air Quality Management Area because of significant levels of air pollution.

Waste

Formation water from the well tests would be transported for treatment offsite, the company said.

Health

IGas said:

“The proposed development on the existing wellsite within an industrial area, will have no adverse impact on human health.”

Links

Cheshire West and Chester council online planning portal To view the application, use the reference code 17/03213/MIN

IGas statement

Frack Free Dee comment on the application

 

11 replies »

  1. Wow, a drilling rig in an heavily industrialised area. That really is a non event. Its not even shale gas, but coal seam gas, so there will be no fracking required. (Not that that is an issue anyway.) I cannot understand why anyone would oppose this, as we are going to be burning gas anyway.

      • martin collyer
        You wrote-(GhostsintheShale-sorry, but the whole premise of your argument is flawed. There will be very little progress to alternative energy worldwide simply by trying to hit the oil and gas companies.)
        Firstly you miss out the phrase (-but in my opinion- the whole premise etc etc.) I express my opinion and you express yours, they differ, but neither is an absolute, I wish to see change, you don’t, that is just my and your opinion that differs, not an irrefutable absolute opinion one way or t’other.
        Secondly you have misrepresented what I did say and make the erroneous statement that anyone is trying to hit the oil and gas companies. I am not even sure I know what hit in this context implies. Perhaps you could say what you mean.
        I did not say that did I? I was quoting from the article I posted, the link to.
        Your comment appears to suggest that is my personal statement alone, not so, but it is a view that is worth discussing and it is relevant to the discourse.
        If you wish to critique the article, then please do so.
        I believe we have a narrow opportunity to change the present headlong rush to institute more oil and gas production and with it the pollution and climate change acceleration. With the same effort we could, and I think should, redirect towards a possible twenty to thirty year about face in terms of energy production and generation.
        The article states that is possible to convert 100% to totally renewable generation at a price. That is like saying do we continue to accept that things will never change and we give up trying, or do we make the effort to make a much needed change and start that with the present oil and gas issue of fracking.
        Can we change and start it now. Or give up and never make this, or anything else better than it is. Or worse just tinker around the edges and never actually do anything. Evolution or stagnation,
        I say evolution.

    • Totally renewable energy production within twenty to thirty years? At the cost of $125 trillion? Which is a fraction of the cost of remaining trapped in a fossil fuel economy and suffering the inevitable global warming resulting from pollution and climate change effects.

      https://www.citylab.com/environment/2017/08/charting-the-planets-path-to-100-renewable-energy/537678/

      The question is, do we have the common sense to act responsibly for a change?
      History says no, that we really are doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.
      Or is there time to change our self destructive habits before it all goes bits up?
      That’s up to all of us I guess. It wont be easy, change never is easy.
      The present situation with the oil and gas industry, is that they cant, or wont change, as can be seen by the comments here.
      The question we should be asking ourselves, is who owns the future? The oil and gas insistence on more of the same, regardless of the consequences, or do we own the future, and drag the rest of them kicking and screaming to a totally renewable future in twenty to thirty years?
      Its about responsibility, either we as a species take the bit in our mouth and the reins in our hands, and pull and push towards a better way, or do we let the present oil and gas monopolies drag us back to the dark satanic mills of a polluted protectionist past?
      Is that really such a tough decision to make?

    • @Ken Wilkinson, why do you say that because it is “coal seam gas, so there will be no fracking required.”?

      The licence at the well at Ellesmere Port is for unconventional gas in the form of coal bed methane (coal seam gas).

      Igas fracked an unconventional coal seam gas well at Doe Green in Cheshire using produced water from the well that had been mixed with domestic supply water.

      At production level, it is likely that some coal bed methane wells would be fracked, with or without proppant.

      Coal bed methane extraction produces waste water in similar volumes to shale gas extraction contains heavy metals, radionuclides and salt. Disposal of coal bed methane produced water carries the same problems regarding treatment and disposal as shale gas.

      Leakage from producing coal bed methane wells is higher than for shale gas fracking, and the shallower depth of coal bed methane production carries a greater risk to groundwater aquifers than it does for shale gas.

      • Lock The Gates, Lancs
        Re fracking of a coal seam gas well.
        Are you sure I gas fracked a coal bed methane well? Normally you drill into the seam, perforate the well and lower the water pressure to get the gas out. As the pressure reduces, then ‘ fracking may be used. However, as coal is a lot softer than shale, extreme pressures are not used. Fractures would typically remain in seam, unless anyone knows otherwise.

        Has I gas truly removed all the water they can from the coal bed to get the gas, then filled it back up again to such an extent that it exceeds the initial pressure? Why not pressurise it straight away?

        It is possible I gas used water to initiate fractures in a vertical well?

        Coal bed methane does not extract water in a similar fashion to shale fracking. The initial water drawn off is the same as was pumped out of coal mines. This water was popped into nearby water courses. It still comes out into canals in the harecastle tunnel and other old mines, such as the bridgewater canal.

        These waters are not good news for the water course, but their content is well known and this initial water does not contain any fracking chemicals. The treatment of this water is not reliant on new technology.

        Shale fracking, in contrast, does not generally produce lots of water, it’s the water you put into it that comes back out and then, not all of it depending on the saturation of the shale. Hence, due to its chemical burden, along with products resulting from the interaction of the chemicals and shale means that treating water from shale fracking as opposed to coal bed de watering is not the same.

        Coal bed methane wells and leakage rate? I will read up on it.

        Damage to the Aquifer? I think that, as fracking, if done, is low pressure, nothing will reach an aquifer. Indeed, if the aquifer leaks into the coal seam, you will get more water out of the well?
        Nothing would re create the effect of dropping thecaquifer a few feet, as coal mining does. We did have examples of the aquifer leaking into a coal mine, but not vice vetsa ( they are above the coal seams ).

        Happy for anyone to disagree, with some paper on the issues of aquifer contamination from CBM fracking, or any other points, in particular any reports on CBM fracking, pressures used etc etc.

  2. Typical Labour MPs. Opposing something which is not even proposed!

    Are they that devoid of any ability to create their own platform of ideas? Next, we will hear they are opposing dinosaurs being issued with disability badges. The sooner we get MPs cut to 500 the better-it seems impossible to find 650 who have sufficient brain cells.

  3. More opposition and good to see these MPs are supporting their community and upholding Labour’s position to ban fracking/unconventional gas extraction.

  4. Oh oh “hundreds”? [Edited by moderator] I expected thousands at a minimum.
    Seems the fire has left the belly of the campaign these days.

  5. You have to love the attempts at confusion via semantics! What is “unconventional gas extraction”? This is a term purely utilised to confuse the easily confused, and we all know how easily Labour MPs are confused (see recent experience from Rotherham). Too concerned with political correctness and not concerned with correct political decision making.

    I remember the days (many years ago) when the Labour party was all for supporting the industrial sector and jobs that would create life long members for the Unions. No wonder they lost most of the working class vote at the last election, and Len was elected with just over 5% of the membership voting for him.

    It will be an interesting side show if fracking is a great success in UK (England) to see how certain positions by political parties and devolved assemblies are explained-I will put my money on that other semantic nonsense “we were following the precautionary principle”.

  6. GhostsintheShale-sorry, but the whole premise of your argument is flawed. There will be very little progress to alternative energy worldwide simply by trying to hit the oil and gas companies. It is not just companies, but countries as well who are dependent so to change that in anywhere near 30 years would simply result in huge cost penalising the poorest the most and loss of life through regional conflicts.

    Progress will be made by encouraging those already involved in oil and gas to come up with the solution, and I suspect a large part of that will be to de-carbonise fossil fuels. Step changes of that nature stand a chance of progressing. Dragging countries and world economies “kicking and screaming” do not. I know it is the popular whim to try and change history, but before that happens, I would suggest you look at a few examples of those who have attempted such tasks.

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