Revealed: INEOS secret court evidence on hazards of shale site materials

171117 KM Natalie Bennett Maple Indie Media

Former Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, at Third Energy’s Kirby Misperton site. Photo: Maple Indie Media

The shale gas company, INEOS, has said some products which may be used at a proposed exploration site could cause cancer or birth defects if “permitted to escape”. They could also lead to mutations and were toxic to plants and animals.

Other items were corrosive, flammable or could cause serious damage to eyes, the company said.

The list of substances and their hazardous properties was included in a statement submitted to the High Court for a secret hearing in July when INEOS sought an injunction against anti-fracking protesters.

The statement was signed by Tom Pickering, the company’s Operations Director, and was used by INEOS in support of its case for the injunction preventing interference with its shale gas activities.

After a request by DrillOrDrop, the court released the document.

The witness statement included a table of seven possible chemicals and products which may be used at Bramleymoor Lane, a proposed shale gas exploration site on the edge of the village of Marsh Lane in north east Derbyshire. INEOS proposes to drill a vertical coring well at the site but not to carry out fracking.

The table gave details of the potential use of the products, their likely volumes and “the possible hazards to humans if such chemicals are permitted to escape”.

170723 Tom Pickering witness statement 2 extract 1

Extract from witness statement by Tom Pickering, Operations Director of INEOS Shale

DrillOrDrop has been unable to find references to any of the products’ hazardous properties in publicly-available documents from INEOS about Bramleymoor Lane.

What INEOS told the court

The items in the witness statement included: lubricating oil (new and waste); diesel; oil-based mud and cuttings; oily rags and absorbents; and used oil filters.

The main hazardous properties for all these items were listed by INEOS as: ecotoxic (harmful to plants, animals and the environment); carcinogenic (cancer causing); mutagenic (increasing the frequency of mutations) and teratogenic (substances that can disturb the development of an embryo or fetus or cause birth defects). Diesel was also described as flammable.

Other products and chemicals in the table were: caustic soda, which was listed as corrosive, and biocide, which was said to have a “risk of serious damage to eyes, sensitising, harmful”.

Bramleymoor Lane possible chemicals

Redrawn table of possible chemicals and substances that could be used at Bramleymoor Lane and their main hazardous properties. Source: Witness statement by Tom Pickering

In his witness statement, Mr Pickering said:

“The biggest risk/most dangerous substance on the list is diesel, as it will be in bulk tankers which could cause a major pollution incident should the tankers be tampered with.

“The oil based mud and cuttings, although legally classed as a hazardous waste, are less dangerous but would still require a major clean-up operation – during the drilling stage there may be many lorry loads of these materials leaving the site every day.”

170723 Tom Pickering witness statement 2 extract 2

Extract from witness statement by Tom Pickering, Operations Director of INEOS Shale

Mr Pickering said in his witness statement that he was concerned about risks of trespass at Bramleymoor Lane and two other potential sites during the construction phases.

“INEOS is therefore making this application [for an injunction] in an effort to minimise the risk of a future trespass occurring and to ensure that, should a future incident occur, that INEOS can move quickly in enforcing any order made by the Court.”

He also said:

“I have considerable concerns for trespassers entering the operational Sites who are not aware of the risks presently in existence in addition to those risks that will materialise as the projects develop.

“It is self-evidence that such risks will be greatly exacerbated by trespassers accessing and occupying these sites.

“In addition, dangers caused by trespassers can also result in dangers to Site workers, given the risk that they may interfere with equipment and machinery used by contractors and workers on the sites.”

What INEOS told the public


EIA screening report Bramleymoor Lane

Screening report

In Jan 2017, the company submitted an environmental impact assessment screening report to Derbyshire County Council as the first stage of the planning application process. Only one of the seven items in the witness statement– oil-based mud and cuttings – was mentioned in the screening report. The report did not mention the hazardous properties or any risk from protesters or trespassers.


An exhibition about the Bramleymoor proposals, held in April 2017, described how INEOS would protect the environment at the site. It said drilling muds and fuel for the rig and generators would be stored in double-skinned steel tanks. Drip trays would be provided under refuelling points and standing machinery. But there was no mention of any hazardous materials held at the site, any hazardous properties or the impact on human health.

Environmental permit application

In May 2017, INEOS applied to the Environment Agency for a standard rules mining waste permit for Bramleymoor Lane. This identified spent drilling mud and drill cuttings as extractive waste that would be covered by the permit. But there is no reference to their hazardous properties or the risk of trespass or protest.

The permit does not class as mining waste any of the other substances mentioned in the witness statement (lubricating oil, diesel, biocide, oily rags and absorbents and used oil filters) so they are not mentioned in the application.

Planning application

Bramleymoor Lane planning statement

Also in May 2017, the company submitted a planning application for Bramleymoor Lane to Derbyshire County Council. The application for a vertical exploration well (but not fracking) included an environmental report and a planning statement.

The environmental report mentioned only diesel and drilling mud/cuttings from the list in the witness statement. It did not describe their hazardous properties. The planning statement mentioned diesel but only in relation to mobile generators and with no reference to any hazards. Neither document mentioned the risk of protest or trespass.

The environmental report said “embedded mitigation measures” would prevent groundwater pollution from spillages and the handling/management of drilling fluids and cuttings.

The planning statement concluded:

“This development will not result in any effects which would undermine human health”.

It also said:

“INEOS has considered human health in relation to contamination. The risk to human health from on-site sources of contamination is considered to be low.”

And it stated:

“Pollution control and potential health impacts can be addressed satisfactorily through planning conditions and other regulatory regimes.”

The traffic management plan for Bramleymoor Lane, an appendix to the environmental statement, did not mention risks of transporting substances with the hazardous properties referred to in the witness statement. It also did not mention the risk of protest.

Why was the injunction needed?

Rolls BuildingEdit

Last week, the High Court extended the interim injunction sought by INEOS against protests at potential shale gas sites, including Bramleymoor Lane. DrillOrDrop report

The company had told the High Court at a public hearing in October that it faced “a real and imminent threat” of being targeted by unlawful protests.

Lawyers for two campaigners who challenged the injunction had argued that this risk had been overstated. They described the evidence presented by the company as “flimsy” and “exaggerated, tendentious and selective”.

DrillOrDrop asked INEOS to comment on the hazards identified in the witness statement, though not in public material. We also asked why the injunction was necessary to ensure the effectiveness of the company’s mitigation measures proposed to the Environment Agency and Derbyshire County Council.

The company said:

“INEOS Shale is being targeted by hardcore activists and we have a duty to ensure our operations remain safe despite their unlawful actions. We do not apologise for this – it is simply the responsible thing to do. And it would be irresponsible if anyone engaged in scaremongering or took these issues out of context.

“INEOS is one of the UK’s largest manufacturing companies and safety is always the highest priority. We have the expertise to safely carry out all of our activities. We adhere to all UK regulations and ensure that our day-to-day activities are carried out in the proper manner.”

On the transport of hazardous substances and the traffic management plan, INEOS said:

“The safe transportation and storage of fuels and chemicals is a crucial part of this planning. This is no different to many other businesses and this type of transportation happens millions of times every day across the UK, in industries as diverse as supermarkets, construction and petrol stations.”

Jon Mager, an opponent of shale gas developments who attended the injunction hearing, said:

“Tom Pickering’s Statement of Truth suggests that INEOS, despite adherence to regulations and ‘best practice’, cannot keep their well sites safe and secure.

“These authoritative statements of the fact, from a Director of INEOS Upstream, suggest that the company, and all other companies involved in shale gas exploration in the UK, have withheld the whole truth about their operations.

“They also suggest that the shale gas industry harbours concerns about the safety and security offered by current regulations. The statements also call into question the reliability of traffic management plans to ensure the safety of transport routes with consequent risk to residents and all road users.”

41 replies »

  1. The “battery” fans should look up the hazard classification of cobalt!!

    Predictable. Back to science to confuse those who can not grasp science.

    • More of the usual diversions martin? Classic avoidance: “but, but, but, these guys are doing something nasty somewhere else, look over there not at us, so why can’t we do the same or worse?”

      No martin, ineos and all the other operators are trying to squirt this toxic poison into our water supply, our land and our air without our permission, without asking us, or consulting us and then trying to prevent us even complaining about it.
      There is no science in that, unless you consider chemical warfare to be science?

      No deal.

      Since when has any of your posts demonstrated a “grasp” of science, oh you crow a lot, but have you ever displayed one single credible iota of understanding what that actually means?


      Just hot air, and not even hot gas

    • The point of this post is to show how INEOS use information about chemicals. If you read their website they post a positive and safe description, whilst, when they want to ‘scare off’ protesters they use a negative connotation. Sounds like desperation to me.

      • Sherwulf
        Yes and no. The affects of the products and chemicals are a matter of fact as published in the Hazard Data Sheets, which look scary. But there may well be no affect on the public due to the operational method and or the risk reduction measures.

        In this case however, which I believe to be about the affect of those products and chemicals on trespassers, then someone who is not following the appropriate risk reduction measures, or wearing the appropriate PPE would be at far greater risk than those who are doing so. Hence the direct crib from the Hazard data sheet.

        The impact of these products and chemicals on the public is a different issue and a different discussion in this specific case?

        • Whilst I understand your point hewes, this is about manipulation of the facts to gain an outcome. It’s that psychology thing again. You could go all day with this. I don’t intend to.

  2. Give it a rest, I will pay for you to take a trip to China to see where your beloved solar panels are made and where the hazardous waste goes. I guess all the antis wear gloves whilst filling up at the petrol station?

  3. You mean refracktion that when you add NaCl to your roast pork, that is not potentially toxic?? Giggle, ship wrecked sailors.

    You mean my “friends” who have all those shareholders???

    If the antis want to lead the “sheep” best not to treat them as such. Have you looked up the hazard category for cobalt yet? Happy with those primary school age kids in Africa handling the stuff to make “alternative” energy an alternative? (My last business used to handle the stuff, and then it was re-categorised and we banned use over night as the potential litigation costs, and cancer risks, were too great.)

    And what sort of fuel do you add to your vehicle? Diesel? (Yes, you do, and you admitted you were “misled”!!) Check out the hazard categorisation for that, supplied by Ruth above.

    Poor lady must get really annoyed. She produces the information and it is degraded by so called antis immediately and without compunction.

    But thanks for your message. Jim will be happy you supported his business when you pressed “send”.

    • Martin – as usual you miss the point which is that your friends at Ineos (and yes people own shares in it even though it is not public – Jim Ratcliffe owns 60% of the shares I believe) seem content to use information in different ways when it suits them. So when they are courting public support they write things like “In the UK, all hydraulic fracture fluids are fully disclosed and must be non-hazardous to ground water,
      thereby de-coupling the hazard-source linkage.” but when they want to get an injunction against those pesky protesters their descriptions are rather less reassuring (that’s called “understatement” Martin). All of a sudden their sites are full of carcinogenic, ecotoxic, mutagenic stuff. It would be funny if it were not so cynical.

      You keep doing this silly thing about quoting other crap things as though that would somehow make this crap thing uncrap. Sorry Martin. It doesn’t.

  4. [Edited by moderator]They think the risk to the public comes from trespassers ? No it’s easy to see where the threat comes from .

  5. I am not sure that there has been a big ‘reveal’ here.

    The items listed are normal for oil and gas drilling activity, and to a lesser extent any drilling activity. A shorter list than one which includes well stimulation chemicals, for example.

    The list context seems to be a list to show those chemicals or products which, if released by trespassers, could then harm said trespasser, hence the need for adequate security provision.

    This issue would need to be covered in the site HSE plan, and specifically compliance with guidance note 113 of the ‘Guide to the Borehole Sites & Operations Regulations 1995’. This addresses the security aspects of the site. I do not think they need one yet. Better to wait for permission to drill ( subject to having one of course).

    Re the traffic plan, this addresses vehicle numbers, not content. I am sure later plans ( should they get the green light to drill ) would cover the risks from transporting fuel oil ( as delivered daily in local village by small tanker ), lubricating oil ( as held on any site using machinery ), caustic soda delivered in quantities akin to a delivery to B&Q, Biocide in a small tanker ( smaller than the ones used by farmers ), plus drilling mud, some oily rags and a few old oil filters.

    I do note that their Planning Statement says the HSE ‘will ensure the design and construction of the well is safe’.
    But they ( the HSE ) also ensure that the health and safety of the employees, those not employed by the company and the general public is catererd for via the above noted HSE plan. So a missing there I guess.

    Outwith drilling mud and cuttings I have all the noted products and chemicals on site at home.

    I have a 3000L fuel oil tank, the local farmer 10,000L. There are 52 x 2000L or more fuel oil tanks in the village.
    1 kg of Causric Soda for drain cleaning and some for oven cleaning.
    20L of lubricating oil in cars and in the garage.
    10l of biocide for spraying loft timbers ( down from 20L). The farmers have a lot more and pop it directly on the land.
    I have a few oily rags and one oils oil filter along with 10L of used oil.

    Hence, not a big reveal in this case n my opinion.

    • Yes, i am sure that there has been a big reveal here.

      Does a person drinking water contaminated by these carcinogenic toxins have the right training to deal with carcinogenic toxic waste disposal and have the appropriate ppg?
      Do people breathing the contaminated air have the correct appropriate ppg or know the correct procedures to apply when encountering airborne toxic waste containing carcinogens?
      Does anyone eating food grown on land contaminated by carcinogenic toxic waste chemicals know they have to treat their food as toxic waste and wear the right ppg when handling it, let alone the hazards of consuming it?
      Would you care to expand on what those preparations and precautions should be?

      • Phil C
        In the context of the list in the report, Diesel and lube oil are the carcinogenic, mutagenic etc, and therefore so are oily rags and old oil filters.
        For fuel oil, if not used it is returned to the supplier. I do not have any Waste from my 3000L fuel oil tank, until the day I decommission it, and then the sludge goes to the recycling centre.
        Waste lube oil is recycled by a waste company.
        Likewise oily rags and oil filters are disposed of ( if all fails ) they can use Worksop recycling Centre.
        There is no more risk to local people from fuel oil, lube oil and oily rags / used oil filters than from the use of fuel oil for central heating, or for powering their cars. Likewise for lube oil from their can of 3 in 1 at home.

        So, does anyone drink water contaminated with diesel or lube oil, breath in contamination due to diesel or lube oil, or eat food contaminated with diesel or lube oil in Derbyshire now, and would the risk increase significantly due to the use of diesel and lube oil in the quantities noted at the drilling site?

        • I’m not asking what existing problems there are, i say this is a big reveal because it shows Ineos are trying to be secretive about hazardous toxic chemical waste.
          Please tell me what precautions are necessary for the ordinary man woman and child, and with even more dangerous fracking carcinogens soon to be pumped into our water supply and the as yet unspecified method of toxic waste disposal and transport, to where or to whom seems to be a trade secret,
          What precautions do you propose to advise ordinary untrained people to carry out when breathing, handling eating and drinking potentially hazardous toxic waste contamination?
          What preparation and precautions, what ppg whilst handling or breathing, whether they should eat or drink at all without labelled government health warnings and quality assurances of non contamination?

          Please can you detail these for us?

          • Phil C

            I still do not see the big reveal. The products and chemicals noted are nothing unusual for a drilling operation.
            The fuel oil and lubricating oil, along with the old filters and rags do not pose unacceptable toxic waste issues. They are not pumped down the well.

            The drilling mud contains, inter alia, caustic soda, used as a ph balance for the mud, and biocides. Drill cutting waste is well known and there are plants in the uk which can deal with it.

            Hence, the list does not reveal any new issues you would expect from on onshore drilling operation.

            Note that the list is not about fracking chemicals.

            If INEOS need to include a full chemical listing for a drilling site as part of the planning process, then maybe they should, but it ain’t a secret as to what goes into drilling mud.

            Re your expanded question re fracking chemicals, I know of no plans by anyone to pump frack fluid into the water supply, or, as you say even more chemicals ( more than before? ), to let them dine of frack returns, or for them to breath in, eat or drink frack return fluid. Ditto any other hazardous waste.

            The principle is not to let the public near it.

  6. I have PhilipP. I have told you that before, so you knew the answer to that. Why try and pretend you don’t?. You obviously are confused about the everyday usage that potential toxic materials are put to and whether they can be, and are, adequately controlled. Perhaps look at GBK post at 6.45pm?

    I thought the subject in hand was whether materials, potentially toxic, are utilised in industry? Ermm, yes, they are. Not new, try Giggling the use of mercury or lead. If not Giggle, ask a Roman-oh, they declined, I wonder why. How about acids being added to bread to prevent moulds, formaldehyde used to add to feedstuffs? (I used to sell 24 tonne truck loads of the stuff.)

    Plastic, uncontrolled, in the ocean-a toxic problem. On your keyboard, your portal to the world. Ban or control?

    If you want to address the audience that you think expects all fish fingers to be from octopi, as they are the marine creatures with arms that is first thought of, carry on, but you may just find some of audience know a little more than you credit them with.

    • Straight question, no straight answer … again you waffle on. How is the toxic waist being ‘treated’ and disposed of then? You should be able to answer that in two sentences – is that too difficult or is it that you just don’t know? If, as you claim, you have told me before (you certainly haven’t – memory issues again?) it should be even easier to repeat that.

      A few points to ponder:
      1/ the toxicity of the muddy flowback liquid is way beyond anything you mention above. The analysis from Preese Hall flowback was as follows: arsenic at 20x permissible safe level for drinking water; lead at 1438x permissible safe level for drinking water; cadmium at 156x; bromide and radioactive sludge at 90x.
      2/ why do you think disposal of this kind of stuff is a major issue and expense overseas?
      3/ 40% or more of the 10 million odd gallons of fluid pumped into each fracked well comes back up as flowback
      4/ Canadian States have banned the use of municipal treatment plants for this kind of disposal and underground injection raises other problems.

      I believe you guys are at your most dangerous when your play these things down as trivial and are seriously attempting to misconstrue and mislead your fellow countrymen and women with phony palliative ‘calm down’ talk. Shame on you.

      Answers please (if you have them).

  7. No one in their right mind would want to trespass on such dirty sites.
    The issue is that Tom Pickering has no faith in the regulations for safe storage. His emphasis was on the risks of materials transported to and from the site and the risk of spillage.
    Don’t you think it interesting that the nature of these hazardous materials has never been mentioned in planning applications or those cosy presentations and websites which claim that chemicals used are found under any kitchen sink or used in cosmetics.
    Good point about filling stations, perhaps it is time that the hazards of diesel were spelt out more clearly. Very helpful for the Director of the largest oil and gas exploration company operating in the UK to do this though.

  8. I always thought it was a principle of British justice that you ‘can only come to equity with clean hands’, i.e. oil companies should not base their case at law on something they are doing that is wrong. How can protesters be blamed for putting people’s health at risk over dangerous chemicals that the complainants are responsible for introducing in the first place? Especially when the protesters’ aim is to stop the use of the chemicals altogether, in everyone’s best interests. Protesters are not intending to endanger society!

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