Council ordered to release “strictest confidence” email on INEOS shale gas plans in N Yorkshire

Ineos yorkshire licences

INEOS licence areas. Blue blocks are where the company is the operator. Source map: INEOS Shale

North Yorkshire County Council has been ordered to release correspondence about exploration plans by Britain’s biggest shale gas company.

The council had refused to disclose an email between its head of planning, Vicky Perkin, and INEOS Shale and another between Ms Perkin and her chief executive, Richard Flinton.

But the Information Commissioner has ruled that the council must publish the documents in response to a freedom of information request by a local anti-fracking campaigner.

The correspondence, released this week, appears to contradict the council’s earlier explanation about a meeting between the council and INEOS in January 2017. The council has said it was just for INEOS to introduce itself and explain its company purpose. Emails between N Yorks CC and INEOS

The council said:

“Meetings of this nature are common where any potential proposal would require planning permission from the county council. No decisions are made in this type of introductory meeting.”

“In strictest confidence”

But the email from Ms Perkin to Mr Flinton, sent after the meeting was titled “In strictest confidence” and suggests the discussions went further.

It identified an area between York and the Howardian Hills which is likely to be the initial focus of INEOS’s operations.

Ms Perkin told Mr Flinton:

“[name redacted] then went on to explain that the initial geographical focus will likely be within the INEOS licence areas (moving in an east/west alignment) from Helperthorpe (on the eastern perimeter of the INEOS licence areas in North Yorkshire) (with the exception of those in the NYMNP [North Yorkshire Moors National Park] and Strensall forming the western extremity of the INEOS licences within the county boundary.”

Ms Perkin refers to five INEOS Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDLS) 282, 283, 289, 291 and 332.

They cover places including Malton, part of York, Sheriff Hutton, Thornton le Clay, Strensal, Kirkham Abbey, Kirby Grindaylthe, Wharram Percy, Kilham, Octon, Kilham and Settrington.

171005 seismic testing Bolsover UWOP3

INEOS seismic testing in Derbyshire 5 October 2017. Photo: Used with the owner’s consent

The email also revealed that INEOS was likely to follow the same process it is currently implementing in the East Midlands. According to Ms Perkin, INEOS said it would:

  • Review existing 2D and 3D seismic survey data
  • Carry out its own seismic surveys, over a period of about six months
  • Submit planning applications for vertical coring wells

The email sent by INEOS two days before the meeting said:

“INEOS does not propose wells to extract gas (using hydraulic fracturing “fracking” techniques) until these initial works have been undertaken, and there is a clear understanding of the local and regional geology.”

According to Ms Perkin, the company expected to submit proposals for the vertical coring wells within the next couple of years. But some parts of the company’s timetable appear to have slipped. In January INEOS expected to begin the seismic surveys “later in 2017”.

It also promised to “put in place a comprehensive public information and consultation process ahead of physical activities in an area.”

So far there has been no public information about seismic surveying or possible well sites.

Council “wrong to conceal meeting”

The meeting between INEOS and the county council was uncovered by anti-fracking campaigner, Kit Bennett. He said:

“Seismic surveys are the first step towards fracking. I’m glad that the Information Commissioner’s Office has forced North Yorkshire County Council to reveal this information.

“The county council were wrong to conceal the meeting in the first place. They need to put the public’s right to know ahead of INEOS’ unwanted shale gas exploration.”

Fracking and shale gas are very sensitive subjects in the Ryedale area of North Yorkshire. People there are expecting an imminent announcement on whether fracking plans by Third Energy at Kirby Misperton will be approved by the Business Secretary, Greg Clark.

Jim Tucker, of the campaign group Frack Free Ryedale, is expected to raise the issue of the council-INEOS meeting at a county council area committee in Malton this morning. He said:

“For those people who think that they are safe from the dangers of fracking as they don’t live near Third Energy’s site in Kirby Misperton this is a wake up call.

“With so many PEDL licences already in the hands of companies like INEOS there is no-one across the county who won’t be affected by this hugely damaging industry.

“We have a growing body of evidence on the harmful impact of the industry on public health, the environment, local business including agriculture and tourism and, most recently, the effect on house prices when the frackers move in.

“Everyone needs to wake up to the overwhelming damage that fracking will do to their local community – we urge them to join our campaign against the industry.”

As well as North Yorkshire, INEOS holds PEDL licences across York, East Riding of Yorkshire and the North York Moors National Park.

DrillOrDrop asked the company for updated details of its plans in North Yorkshire. The company said in a statement:

“Introductory meetings and consultation is expected of responsible developers.

“As INEOS is a responsible developer, we regularly hold meetings with a variety of interested stakeholders and parties.  In the case of our proposed survey work in North Yorkshire we have met North Yorkshire County Council to consult council officers on our plans.

“We are committed to being open and approachable and carrying out genuine two-way dialogue with consultees from individuals to councils.”

Emails between N Yorks CC and INEOS

Updated 10.25 on 15/11/2017 with statement from INEOS Shale




20 replies »

  1. Fracking induced earthquakes in America, some over 5 on the Richter Scale, travel over 40 miles!

    On our tiny island nobody is going to be safe!

    Ban fracking now please!

    • Why secret? Why “in strictest confidence”? Should not everything that is done by a council be made public information?
      What have they got to hide?

  2. Oh oh. Secret confidential letter shows INEOS said they want to do work in their license area in the same way they have others while ignoring the bits they’re not allowed to use.

    This might have been news if they’d said something anyone didn’t already know or expect.

  3. So, a company acquires licences over a period of time, in order to conduct some exploration. They then start work in one area, detailing what their intentions are. Surprise, surprise, secret correspondence then shows they intend to examine their other licence areas in the same way.
    And the Premiership sides will enter the FA Cup shortly! Hold the front page.

    • So why secret?
      Does the e-mail indicate collusion and suppression of information contrary to open government?
      If not, the why “in strictest confidence”? Since when has that been publically accountable North Yorkshire County Council procedure?
      Something stinks, and it’s not mercaptan.

      • The Information Comissioner by overruling NYCC has determined that NYCC was not only wrong but did not act in the public’s best interest. The council failed to comply with It’s statutory obligation.

  4. Great news for the economic development of Yorkshire. ‘Company proposes to do exploration drilling in licence area’ is hardly of any interest to anyone. Its what they bought the PEDL for!!

    • I’m very sorry but I absolutely disagree. By withholding this information the County Coulcil clearly knew this was sensitive and contravercial information. If they thought this information would have been well received, was of great and positive benefit to these areas then they would have made it public straightaway. It is nonesense to claim otherwise.

  5. One has to ask just who are North Yorkshire County Council serving. A clue is public as in PUBLIC sector and local as in LOCAL government. The elected members of NYCC are elected to represent their constituents and officers employed by the tax payer to deliver PUBLIC services and provide professional support to elected members. They are not paid employees of Ineos and private companies. Each local authority has an Information Officer that advises their council on information governance. There is no excuse for withholding this important information. The fact this information was withheld could only have been for Ineos’s benefit. The people of North Yorkshire deserve and have every right to know about plans that directly affect them. Many people living in these areas will be unaware that they are under threat from fracking. NYCC are a disgrace behaving in this manner and have displayed a complete lack of judgement. They need to be reminded just who they serve.

  6. What “benefit” do Ineos get from this information, KatT?? Anyone with a grey cell between their ears could expect this. There is nothing here any different to what is known. DOD has posted a long time ago about Ineos licences in this area and there are plenty of local activists who could easily access that information and disseminate it.

    I know the conspiracy theory get’s more excitement going, but this attempt is pretty weak. Real news is out there. UKOG announce £10m new funding today, and initial output information.

  7. Martin, I have another surprise for you. There are no Premiership sides in this years FA CUP.
    In fact there are no Premiership football teams in English Football.

    Only words, I know. Normally this information is ‘Strictly Confidential’ but thought it should be shared.

    Have a nice day.

  8. I know that Waffle, but I revert back to when my club won it. I can’t be bothered with the almost annual change of sponsorship.

    [Edited by moderator]

  9. In football terms, Sherwulfe, I expect I am in the company of all Premiership club supporters living in the past, perhaps with the exception of Manchester City supporters. Reality is something we are used to living with. Apart from Liverpool supporters, that is.

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