People living around the Wressle well site near Scunthorpe have received a detailed letter from the operator, Egdon Resources, as a public inquiry into oil production plans goes into its second week.
The company is appealing against two refusals of planning permission by North Lincolnshire Council.
Last week, the company gave evidence to the inquiry in support of the schemes. It also faced challenges to its procedures and operations from council witnesses and members of the public.
During the weekend, Egdon distributed a three-page letter to residents in the Broughton area.
The letter said the company wanted to reiterate that:
- The Environment Agency had issued a permit for oil production at the site
- The operation would not affect surface water or underground aquifers
- There would be no impact on traffic, flora and fauna, cultural heritage, landscape impact, lighting, noise, air quality, seismicity, use of agricultural land, flood risk, highways, rights of way, ecology, environmental health, cultural heritage and archaeology
- There would be no adverse impacts on the local highway network.
The letter also set out the benefits of oil production, including:
- Business rates
- Some local employment and spend on local goods and services
- Protection and enhancement of the environment through targeted biodiversity measures
- Reduced need to import energy and support for UK security of supply
The letter said the Environment Agency had accepted that the “plans for the design and protection of the site were robust”. The company added it had:
“many years’ experience in designing, building and operating sites to the highest standards”.
Challenge to operations and plans
During last week’s sessions, reported by DrillOrDrop, the inquiry heard criticism of the Egdon’s operations and proposals.
The council’s hydrogeologist, Susan Wagstaff (below left), said Egdon had not carried out a ground investigation before installing the site liner. The company’s own witness, James Dodds, conceded that this would have been helpful.
The inquiry also heard that reports for Egdon Resources had not assessed the risk of contamination to groundwater in the Lincolnshire Limestone and Great Oolite formations. The company had assumed that the groundwater was protected by a geological capping layer, an interpretation rejected by North Lincolnshire Council.
A report for Egdon submitted to the council in January 2017 said “the aquifer was isolated from the reservoir by a fault”. But Mr Dodds told the inquiry that he didn’t know what this meant.
Ms Wagstaff, for the council, said groundwater monitoring boreholes at Wressle would not catch contamination on about half of the well pad. She also said Egdon Resources’ consultants had not produced an adequate conceptual model of the hydrogeology.
Mr Dodds, for Egdon Resources (right) admitted that he had incorrectly stated there were 600mm of stone and 50mm of sand on top of the site liner. In fact, the thickness of stone was about 300mm and there were layers of geotextile, rather than sand.
The inquiry also heard that a report for Egdon incorrectly stated that there were artesian conditions in the groundwater when this had been disproved. The company also admitted that it had stated incorrectly there was an upward hydraulic gradient in the groundwater which would reduce the risk of contamination from surface spills.
The inquiry heard that Egdon was seeking permission to use techniques to improve the flow of oil from the well. These include acidisation – the use (in this case) of dilute hydrofluoric and hydrochloric acids – and proppant squeeze, where water and ceramic beads are pumped under pressure into the surrounding rocks.
In the letter, Egdon said:
“There also appears to be a perception that there are plans in place for High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing (the process known as ‘fracking) for shale gas. We would like to reiterate that there is no shale present at Wressle therefore High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing wil not take place either now or in the future.”
Members of the public had argued at the inquiry that the proposed operation at Wressle had characteristics of unconventional oil production.
Elizabeth Williams said:
“The definition of the proposal as small-scale and conventional has stifled debate and erroneously reassured people and agencies”.
Under cross-examination, Mark Abbott, Egdon’s managing director, agreed that a proppant squeeze had not been used before in UK onshore oil or gas operations. The company’s consultant, Jonathan Foster, said the company would have to submit a hydraulic fracturing plan to the Oil and Gas Authority before undertaking the proppant squeeze.
In the letter, the company said it was “committed to engaging with the community at every stage of the process”.
But during the inquiry, its planning witness, Paul Foster, said objections from members of the public to the applications had been either irrelevant or from people living outside north Lincolnshire.
The inquiry resumes tomorrow (Tuesday 14 November) with the cross-examination of Paul Foster by North Lincolnshire Council’s barrister, Alan Evans. DrillOrDrop will be reporting live updates from the session. The other remaining sessions include a site visit, closing arguments and discussion of any conditions, should the appeal be successful.
- The inquiry opens at 9.30am at Grange Farm Hobbies Centre, Wesley Road, Scunthorpe DN16 1SA.
Catch up on week one of the inquiry