Regulation

Egdon seeks to reassure residents after challenges to Wressle oil production plans

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.

171110 PI DoD1

Egdon witness, James Dodds (right) cross-examined by Alan Evans for North Lincolnshire Council

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.

171107 PI DoD6

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.

171109 PI Dod7Mr 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.

Production proposals

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

Day 1: North Lincolnshire Council hydrogeological evidence and opening statements

Day 2: North Lincolnshire Council’s planning witness, evidence from Mark Abbott, of Egdon Resources, and members of the public

Day 3: Evidence from Egdon Resources’ hydrogeology and environmental consultants and public statements

Day 4: Evidence from Egdon Resources’ planning and hydrogeology witnesses

7 replies »

  1. Being an environmentalist Ruth has obviously tried to a paint a picture of major issues with Egdons application, however as you can see the piece is rather short and it doesn’t give a true indication as to how the proceedings materialised. The councilors were shown to demonstrate the attitude of disobedient children playing a game of chinese whispers. At least two of the councilors were swayed by not having confidence in the EA, that is enough for the vote to have been in favour for approval, we were never told the real reasons as to why they refused the application. Their planning officer bailed at the last minute thus installing a lady who had very little knowledge of the case personally. Wagstaff did not come across as a competent person with Egdons expert having to draw a diagram for us lay people to understand the basics of geology.
    It is even worse for the council in terms of refusing the second application as the councilors did not show any interest in communicating with the applicant or relevant authorities to address their concerns.
    The public speakers clearly have too much time on their hands as they were babbling on about information not relevant to this appeal.
    This was utlimately an appeal but was orchestrated as if it were a first time planning meeting.
    Barristers are generally very intelligent people and on this occasion the councils barrister did his very best with an unwinnable case. If it came down to barrister v barrister the council would be annihilated.
    This case has shown in clear terms that councilors have let their own personal interests influence what should be a professional decision and that is not good for anyone whether you are anti fossil fuels or non anti.
    And no Phil we don’t need you to recite via copy and paste what Ruth has already detailed in her excellent coverage of the inquiry, anyone with prior experience in dealing with planning appeals will understand and agree with my comments.

    • Curiouser and curiouser peeny, (my spell checker suggests “curio user”?)
      It’s either an example of overwhelming wild optimism or worryingly desperate fantasy with these monologues isn’t it?

      I wonder which I would choose?

      Ummmm tough one!

      It must be the first time in history the the protagonist attempts to rewrite history prior to the outcome? Never mind, it’ll all be over soon and then we will know, I am content to wait for the truth, rather than try to spin the outcome into some illusion, I don’t have a stake or a mistake in that either way.

      Truth is truth, it will be onwards and upwards……..not backwards, whatever happens. Catalysts do that, they change the outcome, but do not themselves change.

      The mistake is in having a stake, or a “mistake” in the outcome. Free yourself from that and move on.

      The usual hooks and barbs scattered around to trap the unwary I see, a bit like a fisher with nothing but emotive words to catch a fish with?

      Wrong fantasy I am afraid peeny, I don’t play those games.

      This below is an interesting guide for those who feel there is anything here but hooks and barbs and empty rhetoric to trap the unwary, watch it all the way through, just because it helps to explain the traps that are springing up all around us at the moment, and what that means to us as human beings in these crazy times.

  2. GBK we agree on the excellent coverage, by Ruth, of this inquiry. However we will always disagree on the impact of drilling on the environment, unless someone waves a magic wand and the oil or gas just appears in magic tanks , there will always be to some degree impact on the environment. To say there won’t be is a lie.

  3. Did I misread somewhere that when this application was initially submitted there was no public objection? If so, might have something to do with Egdon having a good history within the region.

    Interesting how they can then be painted as cowboys and the “whole world” is against the application! And sorry Paula, but every activity by man has an impact upon the environment. Tonight England V Brazil footy match. That will have more impact upon the environment than Wressle ever will. Perhaps the protestors will be down at Wembley chained across the turnstiles? Good luck with that.

  4. Hello Phil C, Still pushing climate change. Perhaps you ought to move your attention to a recent Swedish investigation into climate change, and note that in Roman and even into medievile times the temperature of the world was much warmer….They didn’t mine coal, they may have used a little tar for embalming, they didn’t have cars, or ships or aircraft, and the population of the world was far less than it is today, so it wouldn’t have been the fires they lit ! As I have said before on here, climate change is natural, it has happened before many times and will happen again. There is no steady state for climate, nor is there an international understanding what the climate should be. What doesn’t suit Africa, for example, would probably not find much favour with the Eskimos. Man kind may be assisting it a bit with CO2 emissions, but it is going to happen anyway, and hurricanes are probably par for the course and to be endured, as too the flooding to up to 120 deep of most of the UK in the past

  5. Hello Vernon Walker, I dont recall speaking to you before, so i cant “still be pushing climate change” isnt that the Donald Trump equivalent of “when did you last beat your wife?”

    i don’t need to push anything, climate change as evidenced in great detail all around the world right now, is a fact of life.

    If you find a need to deny that climate change is a fact of life, and has always been, a’ la Trump weird censorship, then the conversation can end right here. You might as well ask, are you still pushing that the earth goes around the sun, or are you still pushing that night follows day, or day follows night?

    We have been all through this past present warmer colder debate right here in great detail, the problem with past evidence is that all the warming and cooling happened for very good reasons and took hundreds of thousands, if not millions of years to change from one state to another.

    I suspect what you mean, you will have to tell me whether you do or not, is what you are referring to is what has become termed as anthropogenic causality climate change, that is climate changed caused, or exacerbated by man and to what degree that is, or is not having upon the planets weather systems at present.

    Is that what you are you referring to?

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