BGS admits mistake over claim that Cheshire fracking research centre was chosen after public consultation

ince marshes NERC

The Ince Marshes, Cheshire, proposed site of the UKGEOS research centre. Photo: NERC

The British Geological Survey has apologised after stating in a press release that Ince Marshes in Cheshire had been chosen as the site of a geological research centre after a consultation with local residents.

The BGS announced in September that the research centre, called UKGEOS, would drill 80 observation boreholes across the marshes to study how fluids and gases flow underground, including during fracking.

The press release said:

“Following an extensive study of the local geology and consultation with local residents and landowners, the BGS can confirm Ince Marshes as its preferred location.”

BGS press release 1

Extract from version 1 of the press release issued in September

Version 1 of BGS press release

The statement about a public consultation was repeated in an information board at an information event in Helsby last month.

Dave Plunkett, from Chester, attended that event and queried the consultation claim. He contacted the event organiser and asked:

“Can you please tell me when the 2016 consultation with local residents took place, in what format, what questions, how many replies etc etc, and also can you direct me to a published copy of the report or summary of that consultation.”

He received the following reply

“I can confirm that the BGS has been characterising the local geology since 2016 and we have undertaken initial consultation with local landowners to understand the possibility of siting boreholes in the locality. BGS has also approached some local businesses, land users and the local authority about our proposal. This process started in 2016 and moved forward in earnest after the £31m funding was approved in April 2017.

“As we are still in the design stages of the facility, our local community engagement process is at the beginning.”

The BGS said it was organising a series of public meetings, after which it would submit a planning application. The organisation said:

“A ‘statement of community involvement’ will form part of the planning application and is the formal report of community engagement activity. It will include analysis of the feedback that we receive as a result. This statement will be a publicly-available document that will include all the information you are looking for below.”

The BGS added:

“I apologise that the wording in the press release suggests that this process had already begun. We have corrected the wording online and on the poster to prevent confusion.”

BGS press release 2

Extract from version 2 of the BGS press release

Full copy of version 2 of BGS press release

Mr Plunkett responded:

“I am really surprised that BGS have made such as simple mistake on this, even before you start the planning process. If this is how you expects to operate, why do you expect people to trust your expertise and views on this technology?”

“Firstly, I suggest you also re-issue that press release, with an apology. Secondly I suggest you realise that openness and honesty are critical here, and this is not a good start.”

The BGS has not included an explanation with the revised version. Mr Plunkett said:

“I would have expected honesty and openness when caught out saying things that are not true.”

IGas fracking and testing plans

Shale gas exploration and fracking is currently a sensitive issue in the area.

In surveys carried out in nearby Frodsham and Helsby a year ago more than 75% of participants said fracking was a bad thing, compared with 9% who said it was a good thing.

Last month, IGas announced that it wanted to drill and frack a new well on the edge of the Ince Marshes. It submitted a scoping request – the first stage in the planning application process – to Cheshire West and Chester Council for the site off Grinsome Road in Elston. If approved, this would be IGas’s first planning consent for fracking.

The Grinsome Road site is about 5km east of Ellesmere Port, where the company is also seeking consent to test (though not frack) another well. Earlier this month, that application had attracted about 700 objections and one comment in support. On 16 November, IGas announced that it had received a mining waste permit for the flow tests at that site at land off Portside North.

11 replies »

  1. BGS already let slip they’re in cahoots with the frackers in a TV interview, 2 mistakes viewed on air, enough to say another batch of lies being sold to us.

    • Astonishing, UKGEOS must have known what their press office were writing?

      Once again, the obsessive desire for concealment and secrecy has shown itself even with the supposedly independent testing arm UKGEOS.

      If UKGEOS are no better at processing a release of a press briefing without revealing a lack of communication skills, how can they be trusted to communicate the test results without concealment?

      You can’t make this stuff up, it’s like a slow motion plane crash, where have we heard that expression before?

      As I have said before there is something very odd about this testing aspect, nowhere near enough funding to produce such vital information and too little too late anyway?

      • From my discussions with the UKGEOS/BGS representatives at the recent Helsby meeting, the UKGEOS team seems to be staffed by people shipped in to BGS from outside the research industry and remarkably from the Environment Agency. I was told that the main Press Officer wasn’t even at the recent meetings and the Press Officer present knew little to nothing about the scientific plans other than they weren’t actually established. Half the people talking didn’t have any responsibility for the studies, didn’t seem familiar with the scheme and just seem to have been rounded up and taken along against their will to emphasise what fantastic science could be done. One thought that drilling was going to be done mainly in the refinery and glass works sites because they can’t get a big enough site by the village. The whole concept seems flawed, reliant on IGAS fracking nearby or paying to extend BGS’s deepest planned borehole into the shale as they can’t afford to do so themselves. UKGEOS staff had been instructed not to mention the F word even though one admitted that without fracking being undertaken then most of the wells and instruments would be unused and that’s why water and gas storage experiments were being mentioned too, otherwise BGS wouldn’t get the government money.

        • Hi, A Gardener, that is great information, thanks, so UKGEOS/BGS is compromised too?
          This is perhaps the UK version of the Donald Trump official censorship and redaction exercise in government bodies?
          What does that say for the results, if any, from such testing?
          Are they operating within a PEDL for example?
          To what degree are they dependent on IGAS for staff, equipment and advisors and interpretation of such results that do emerge, if they emerge?
          If they are independent of such cross pollination, then under what permissions regulations, controls, planning regulations and public consultations do they intend to operate under?
          In other words, is this whole UKGEOS/BGS exercise simply not fracking by the back door in an unregulated “testing” guise?

          Not fracking, just “testing”?

          Nice try, but no cigars.

  2. I do not believe that the BGS are a trustworthy organisation. Quite simply they are in bed with the frackers and want to cash in as far as possible. Frack Free Notts have challenged their head of science Mike Stephenson to public debate – but he won’t do so. I did a review of his awful book “Shale Gas and Fracking – the Science behind the Controversy” published by Elsevier in 2015 but he has never replied to the criticism. He’s the kind of “scientist” who copes with his critics by ignoring them.

  3. In the BGS Business Plan 2016 – 2019, BGS highlighted the possible risks around public confidence and how BGS would be perceived. See below.


    • The BGS loses its essential balance between research focus and
    commercial endeavours

    • Negative public perceptions towards the BGS from working with
    contentious issues

    • The BGS loses its distinctive identity and becomes too much like a

    Despite being aware of these risks, they do not appear to be making a convincing attempt to avoid them.

    Reading the Plan is recommended. You can easily read between the lines and also note the various omissions.

    Search: BGS Business Plan – British Geological Survey.

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