Live reporting from Day 6 of the public inquiry into Ineos plans for shale gas exploration at the South Yorkshire village of Harthill.
Ineos executives and consultants will give evidence on the proposals for a vertical coring well on land off Common Road and how they plan to manage impacts, including traffic.
Reporting from this inquiry at Rotherham Council offices has been made possible by individual donations to DrillOrDrop.
- Two sides disagree over limitations of computer modelled swept path analysis and accident data
- At one point on the lorry route the maximum clearance for the biggest vehicles is 60cm
- Ineos says the scheme will not have an impact on the highway network; Rotherham Council says this is not credible
- Convoys improve road safety, says Ineos; escort vehicles increase traffic, says Rotherham Council
- Traffic increase on Bondhay Lane would be 6,000%. This is a material increase, says the council; Ineos says it is not a significant increase in absolute numbers
- 80% of vehicle movements would be in the first nine months, says Ineos
- Drilling rigwould be on site for only five months, Ineos landscape witness tells the inquiry
- The impact of the drilling rig, at 60m high, would be limited to 1.5km of the site
- The proposed site is not a valued landscape in the context of landscape guidelines, expert says
- Vehicle reversing alarms should be disabled during the night, inquiry told
- Ineos witness says noise impacts of convoys would be negligible
- Ineos noise witness says proposed 55db is too high for the drilling phase of the operation
- Pressure transient test is completely different from fracking, Ineos witness says
- Ineos says there are no major faults and no mineworkings in the area of the proposed site
- The risk to local ground and surface water is “negligible”
- Ineos does not expect to detect radon or hydrogen sulphide in the well and heavy metals would not be used in drilling muds
5pm Hearing adjourns
The inquiry resumes at 9am tomorrow (Thursday 3 May). The inquiry is expected to finish tomorrow.
4pm Council questions Ineos traffic evidence
Jon Darby, the barrister for Rotherham Borough Council (above), cross-examines Ineos”s traffic witness, Kevin Martin.
4.04pm Challenges of lorry route
Mr Martin acknowledges it is a challenging route. Mr Darby says two consultancies have taken a year to come up with a proposal. Mr Martin says “Where we are now has taken a year.”
Aaron Tilley, a consultant for Curtins, said there were three main constraints to the proposed lorry route:
- A619 Worksop Road/Bondhay Lane priority controlled junction
- Packman Lane in the vicinity of Loscar Farm
- Common Road/Packman Lane priority controlled junction
Mr Martin says a February site visit had since agreed the minimum width of Packman Lane was greater than previously thought. Nine widths had been measured has established at 3.7m.
Mr Darby refers to drawings which confirm vehicles will overrun the carriageway. Mr Martin says the widest loan has now been reduced and the swept path analysis in the drawings has been superceded.
Mr Darby says there is a reference to loads of 3.3m would fit between the hedges. There are limitations to any swept path analysis, he puts to Mr Martin. Mr Martin disagrees. They are models, Mr Darby says. Mr Martin says the industry accepts if the software demonstrates vehicles can negotiate a road then they will be able to do. It is a robust assessment of actual swept paths.
Mr Martin accepts the swept path analysis is a model. Mr Darby says the models rely on perfect manoeuvre. No, says Mr Martin. This has been validated on test tracks, Mr Martin says. It is a robust assessment on what a vehicle can do. Can you help the inspector about the margin for error?, Mr Darby asks.No, says Mr Martin.
Mr Darby says the margin for error increases when roads are wet and vehicles are heavily laden. Mr Martin agrees that wet weather can influence the outcome. Mr Darby says the swept path shows one way in which vehicles can navigate. Mr Martin says it is a robust piece of software. Mr Darby says it shows what is possible, not what is practicable.
Mr Darby says the lorry route differ from a test track environment. Mr Martin agrees.
Mr Darby puts it to Mr Martin that there are pinch points on the route. Mr Martin agrees.
4.20pm Pinch point at Loscar Farm
Jon Darby, for Rotherham Council, asks who took the measurements near Loscar Farm. Mr Martin, for Ineos, they were taken jointly.
Mr Darby asks if the measurements take account of the overhang. Mr Martin says the overhang is not excessive. It does not overlap the highway boundary. If it were, it should not, he said. Asked again if it took account of the overhang, Mr Martin says the measurement does not. Mr Darby asks if the swept path analysis takes account of the overhang. Mr Martin says it does not.
Mr Darby asks what is the margin between the track on the swept path and the pinchpoints. Mr Martin says the highway width is 4.1m.
The inspector, Stephen Roscoe, says there are walls on both sides of the road. He asks if the 4.1m is the distance between the two walls. Mr Darby says the maximum clearance is 60cm. Mr Martin agrees.
4.29pm impact on roads
Jon Darby, for Rotherham Council, puts it to Kevin Martin, for Ineos, that is not credible to argue that the proposal will not have an impact on the highway network.
Mr Martin accepts that the proposal will have an impact and that this is material.
Mr Darby puts it to Mr Martin that all the work in the Ineos environmental statement gives weight to the accident record of the road network. The severity and number of accidents on the roads was low, according to the environmental statement. Based on Crash Map accident records, Ineos claims there will no impact on the lorry route.
Mr Darby puts it to Mr Martin that Crash Map provides only partial data. It is not reliable in this case, Mr Darby says. It suggests only two collisions but a resident provides evidence in far more. Mr Martin accepts that there is inconsistency. Mr Darby says it is a historical record which may not be accurate. Mr Martin rejects that it is inaccurate.
Mr Darby says Crash Map can’t predict future safety. Mr Martin agrees. Mr Darby says the inspector should consider the addition of a significant number of large vehicles. Mr Martin says it is not a significant addition.
Mr Darby suggests there should be a cautious proposal. Mr Martin says you should consider the proposals in front of you.
Mr Darby puts it to Mr Martin that escort vehicles at front and back of convoys should be added to the vehicle movements. Mr Martin says the escort vehicle do no increase the number of convoys. They improve road safety, he says. Mr Darby says there is a lead escort vehicle and then a front and back vehicle, giving a total of three. Mr Martin agrees.
4.35pm Increase in vehicle numbers
Mr Darby says guidelines suggest a 30% change is a prompt to carry out an assessment. Mr Martin says you have to consider the absolute numbers.
Mr Darby says the guidelines says a 90% change is a substantial change. Mr Martin repeats that you have to consider the absolute numbers. Mr Darby asks for the % change of HGVs. These include a 6,000% increase on Bondhay Lane, Mr Martin says, but he says this assumes maximum construction traffic and average current flows. Mr Darby says construction will lead to substantial changes to the composition of traffic on the lorry route. Mr Darby agrees.
Figures produced by Aecom say the % increase on Common Road will be 200%. This indicates a substantial change. Mr Martin agrees. The increase is material, Mr Darby says. In terms of absolute numbers, Mr Martin says, the increase are not of any significance.
Mr Darby puts it to Mr Martin that he thinks it is more appropriate to consider averages over the lifetime of the development, even though several stages have large increases. Mr Martin says he has considered all stages. I consider average, rather than maximum figures, he says. Mr Darby asks whether it is more appropriate to average over all five stages, even though two stages have relatively low numbers. Mr Martin repeats he has considered all the phases.
Mr Darby says this gives a lower average figure. Mr Martin says the development is very similar to a wind farm developments. These all look at average construction traffic, he says. This is a standard technique. He has seen it in all consultants’ reports over past three or four years.
Mr Darby says Curtins did not take Mr Martin’s approach. Mr Martin says it is wrong to say Curtins looked only at maximum flows. They looked at averages within each phase.
Mr Darby repeats that averages across all phases give a lower figure. Mr Martin says this is not the reason for doing this.
4.45pm Vehicle numbers
Mr Darby refers to a presentation by a local farmer. She counted all the vehicles across the life of the project. Mr Martin had criticised this because this many of the vehicles were in the first nine months. Mr Darby says this is what Mr Martin did when it suited him to produce a low average. This is not an accurate picture of the impact on residents, Mr Darby puts it to him. There will be peaks and troughs, Mr Martin says.
Three of the five stages will have much higher vehicle numbers, Mr Darby puts it Mr Martin. Mr Darby says Mr Martin averaged across the stages and used the average to rely on the conclusion of now significant impact.
The hearing resumes 4pm.
2.52pm Ineos traffic evidence
The Ineos barrister, Gordon Steele, introduces Kevin Martin, the company’s traffic witness (above)
2.55pm Enhanced traffic management plan
Mr Martin says the enhanced traffic management plan (TMP) addresses all the council’s concerns about highway safety. He says there are small numbers of vulnerable road users on the lorry route but these can be accommodated by passing places.
The width of the Packman Lane is greater than had been thought by the council and this has allowed for a greater number of passing places, he says.
Development should be refused under planning guidance on highways grounds only if the residual cumulative impact is severe, Mr Martin says. He argues that the application should not be refused. There are no reasons on highway safety reasons to prevent the application, he adds.
3pm Navigating junctions and bends
Mr Martin provided swept path computer modeling of how heavy goods vehicles would navigate the roads.
The inspector, Stephen Roscoe says the swept path analysis for lorries going through a key junction doesn’t make sense. Mr Martin agrees. Mr Martin later says he was confused by the question. He says the drawing shows the different paths of the trailer and the load, where the load is shorter but wider than the trailer.
Mr Steele, the Ineos barrister, says the drawing makes perfect sense. He says the cabs have to swing outside of the bend to allow the trailer to get round the curve. Mr Martin says the vehicle can pass along the road satisfactorily within the highway boundary.
Mr Martin says the vehicles have trailer steering allowing it to get round tighter bends.
3.15pm Passing places
Mr Martin says he and the council officer says the matter of highway drainage would be a matter for discussion. Drainage should come from the field, across the passing place towards the highway, he says.
Maintenance would be the responsibility of Ineos during the works. Afterwards it would be up to the council to decide whether to keep the passing places.
Mr Martin says the passing places would be part of a legal agreement and would need council consent to be constructed.
3.20pm Public rights of way
Mr Steele asks about the interests of people on public rights of way at the time of a convoy on the lorry route.
Mr Martin says in his proof banksmen could be deployed at the junction of the rights of way and the lorry route. But he says this is contradicted by the Aecom report, which makes up the revised traffic management plan. This suggests there should be appropriate signage. It could be either, Mr Martin says. This would be finalised when the TMP was agreed as a condition.
3.23pm Access to fields
This issued was raised yesterday by local farmer, Helen Wilks (see DrillOrDrop report).
Mr Martin says the traffic management plan always intended there would be liaison with farmers. There would be liaison between the local logistics manager, farmers and residents. This would deal with convoys, stock movements, deliveries, school bus times.
Convoy movements can be co-ordinated with farm movements. Convoys could be suspended during intensive farming times, Mr Martin says. Convoys would take 3 minutes to pass along Packman Lane, he adds. Interruption to field access would be minimal, he says.
Mr Martin suggests there would be convoys of five vehicles. If there are average of 30 two-way movements per day, with five vehicles in convoys, there would be three each way in a day. That level of movements per day can easily be controlled with users on Packman Lane, he says.
The inspector asks where the convoy size is regulated. Mr Martin says this would be in the TMP. It would make good logistic sense to have vehicles in convoys. It’d recommend that, Mr Martin says.
Mr Steele says the convoys would be on the road for a total of 18 minutes in a 12-hour working day. This is a low percentage, Mr Martin says. Movements could be suspended for a day, Mr Martin says, to meet the needs of local farmers.
3.35pm Widths of vehicles
Addressing local concerns that vehicle widths would exceed that of local roads, Mr Martin says this is a misinterpretation of Ineos information. The widths given by the company are working, not transport, widths, he says.
3.41pm Traffic numbers
Mr Martin says about 80% of vehicle movements will be in the first nine months of the scheme. He says traffic control – escort vehicles and stop-go boards – will be in place for all the stages up to the maintenance phase.
2.40pm Inspector’s questions to Ineos landscape witness
Views of rigs
The inspector, Stephen Roscoe, asks whether other sites would be visible. Mr Macrae says there may be places where more than one drilling rig would be visible. It is also a possibility that several workover rigs would be visible from some locations.
Mr Roscoe says the upper part of the drilling rig will be visible from designated landscapes. He asks what would be the impact of the plantation on visibility of the rig. Mr Macrae presents a computer modelled drawing. The impact of the workover rig would be reduced, he says.
2.34pm Questions to the Ineos landscape witness
Deborah Gibson, of Harthill Against Fracking, asks for a definition of temporary. Mr Macrae says the drilling rig will be on site for only five months.
Another member of the audience says Ineos says the rig would be for three months. He says Ineos had said people would not see anything. Mr Macrae says a soil bund cannot screen a 58m drilling rig.
Another public member asks whether 3D modeling has been done. Mr Macrae says no. It was not thought it would add materially to the application, he says.
Mr Macrae is asked how he would definite a remarkable landscape. He says the Peak District, Lake District, an AONB or National Park.
A resident who lives nearest suggest that “overbearing” is subjective. Mr Macrae says he is making a judgement based on other schemes. The resident says the portacabins will be visible above the bund. Mr Macrae says this will only when there will be portacabins. After that they will be single height.
A resident asks about reinstatement of hedgerows. Mr MrCray says a hedgerow will be removed on Common Road to access the site.
2.24pm Ineos evidence on landscape impact
Gordon Steele, Ineos’ barrister, introduces Paul Macrae, the company’s landscape witness (above left).
Mr Macrae says the impacts of the drilling rig would be experienced by people living within 1.5km of the site. This would be only during the drilling phase. The workover rig would have a lesser impact.
There would be a localised and temporary impact on the openness of the Green Belt, Mr Macrae says. But it would be reversed after the five years of the developmet. The current designation of high landscape value is being revised and in future it will not apply to the area, he says.
It is not a valued landscape in the context of landscape guidelines, he says. The development would not affect the character of the area, he concluded.
The drilling rig would intrude on views from local properties but he concludes the presence of the rig would not be over-bearing or oppressive at day or night. It would not have an unacceptable impact on residential amenity.
A proposed soil bund would not mitigate the 60m drilling rig or shorter workover rig. No mitigation is usually proposed. The most effective is the temporary nature of the development, he says.
Some substantial visual effects will occur but they will be temporary and reversible, Mr Macrae says.
2pm Ineos evidence on environmental controls
Gordon Steele, the Ineos barrister (right) introduces the company’s evidence on environmental permits from consultant, Luke Prazsky (above left).
The inquiry hears that the Environment Agency has granted an environmental permit for operations at the Harthill site. Mr Prazsky says the permit controls how the site and drilling will be managed to reduce waste. There can be no emissions to land, air or water, the inquiry hears, controlled by monitoring. The site presents a very low risk to the environment, the inquiry is told. There are no questions from members of the public.
The inspector, Stephen Roscoe, asks whether the permit allows a pressure transient test. Mr Prazsky says this is allowed under the permit with controls on the volume of liquid used in the test.
Mr Roscoe asks Mr Prazsky about the disposal of waste. Mr Prazsky says regulations require the operator to send waste to an approved site by a registered waste carrier. Oil drilling muds are normally returned to the supplier, Mr Prazsky says. Used water based drilling muds are unextractable and would be dealt with off site.
Mr Prazsky confirms that the environmental permit does not cover hydraulic fracturing.
The hearing resumes at 2pm
12.57am Review of noise evidence
Gordon Steele, the Ineos barrister, asks how a condition on different noise limits for different phases of operation would work. Steve Fraser, the Ineos noise consultant, says the operator would be required to advise the local authority when the different stages would start and finish.
Mr Steele asks what would be the effect of the woodland. Mr Fraser says there would be little effect on Harthill, possibly 1-2db difference elsewhere.
Mr Steele asks about what issues would be need to be considered in noise assessment of traffic. Mr Fraser says it would consider speed, weights, size of vehicles. He said wind turbines on Packman Lane had already been taken into account. The traffic assessment was based on daily traffic flow, Mr Fraser says.
Mr Steele asks whether it would be possible to have a condition that would require all site traffic should not have audible reversing alarms. Mr Fraser says it would be possible but he doesn’t think this would be necessary during the day but he says there should be none at night. If that’s a legitimate concern that’s what should be done, Mr Fraser says.
12.10am Noise questions from the public
Les Barlow, who lives 700m from the proposed site, asks about the level of noise from traffic to the site and vehicle reversing alarms.
Steve Fraser, Ineos noise consultant, says vehicle reversing alarms would not normally be used at night. They could be background adjusted but, he says, this is a detail that would be sorted out with the council in the noise management plan. This is normal practice, he says.
Mr Barlow asks whether every vehicle delivering to the site would be adjusted. Mr Fraser says he can’t say every vehicle would adjusted. The inspector, Stephen Roscoe, says there is scope for white noise to be incorporated into conditions.
Mr Barlow says members of his family are about to move into a property 600mm from vehicles using on Packman Lane. He asks what noise increase will result from the extra traffic to the site. Mr Fraser says the change of noise level from traffic would be of negligible significance.
Mr Barlow puts it to Mr Fraser there would be convoys of vehicles with abnormal loads. Mr Fraser says the noise change would be negligible.
Evidence for conclusions on traffic noise
Mr Roscoe asks what is evidence for this assessment. Mr Fraser says the current levels have been compared with what would happen, averaged over 18 hours. Mr Roscoe says there could be peaks within that period that could be attributable to a convoy. Mr Fraser acknowledges there would be peaks but the standard way to look at impacts was to look at it over a longer period of time. Mr Fraser says this evidence is in the environmental report for the application.
Mr Barlow says the instantaneous noise that causes problems. He asks what controls there would be. These instantaneous noise levels are ubiquitous if you live next to a road, Mr Fraser says. Peak noise levels are part of everyday existence.
Deborah Gibson, of Harthill Against Fracking, asking for the likely noise differences on Packman Lane, the quietest part of the proposed lorry route. Mr Fraser says there are no homes there. You have been misinformed, Ms Gibson says.
Impact of noise at night
On the World Health Organisation average guidelines on nighttime noise levels, Ms Gibson asks how peaks of noise would be mitigated. Mr Fraser says there is good evidence that relates noise exposure of a population and the clinical effects on the population. This is what informed the WHO noise criteria. We can be confident if the noise is below these levels, 42db, then people will not report lack of wellbeing.
Ms Gibson says she is concerned about the difference between averages and what people actually experience.
A member of the public, Mr Brookes, asks about the level of noise of traffic past one of the farms on the lorry route. Mr Fraser says he cannot give this information. Low gears could be taken into account in the noise modelling, Mr Fraser says.
Another member of the public, who lives on Common Road, asks about how long the peak convoy noise would last at his property. Mr Fraser says he cannot answer that. He says the impacts will be negligible. The member of the public asks how long are we going to have live through extreme levels of noise. He also asks about whether noise monitoring has been carried out at the Cuadrilla site in Lancashire.
Mr Fraser says the traffic consultant gives numbers of the present and predicted numbers of vehicles. If you consider the noise increase to be negligible would not lead to monitoring. I wouldn’t think it was appropriate to measure the noise from the vehicles. The vehicle noise impacts are negligible, Mr Fraser says.
Mr Fraser is asked about the level of acceptable noise. He says the noise from drilling is steady state and has no intrusive characteristics.
12.09am Inspector’s questions to Ineos noise consultant
The inspector, Stephen Roscoe, asks about tonal noise. Steve Fraser, for Ineos, says tonal noise is not usual on vertical coring wells.
Background noise levels
Mr Roscoe asks where the noise assessments have been carried out. The proposed noise levels will be more than 10db above the background levels, the inspector says. Mr Fraser says the increase will happen in a temporary operation. 51db will be reached only on a couple of days. Mr Roscoe says the operation would not reach the agreed conditions but it would be breached only for a short time. Mr Fraser says the impacts are not that significant. We can be confident that on most days the noise levels will be less than that.
Mr Roscoe says if Ineos is looking for an exemption from the 10db increase for a short period of time, could the noise limit be lowered. Mr Fraser says the company expected noise limits would be below the 55db in the proposed condition. He says a more “finessed condition” would require the company to look at operations on a week-by-week basis. The operations would be below 55db for quite a lot of the time, he says.
Daytime noise levels
Mr Fraser says 55db is too high for phase 2 of the operation. Mr Roscoe says you are saying it could be lower. There is potential for adjusting the noise limit over the duration of the proposal. Yes, says Mr Fraser. The problem is the drilling will be comfortably below 55db during the day. But a condition of background plus 10db would be unduly restrictive, he says.
Mr Roscoe says he wants to return to this issue in conditions. Mr Fraser says a level of 50db would be preferable to 55db during the day to protect public amenity during the central part of the project.
Mr Roscoe asks about the current noise limits of daytime (55db), evening (44db) and nighttime (42db). He asks why does a drilling operation need three different noise levels. Mr Fraser says during the day there are deliveries to the site and the background levels are higher. It is prudent to have more relaxed limits during the day, he says. There is not much difference in background levels in the evening and night, he adds.
Mr Fraser says a standard correction has been made for changing weather. No allowance has been made for the absorbance of noise in the woodlands.
11.57am Evidence from Ineos noise consultant
Gordon Steele, Ineos’ barrister, calls Steve Fraser, the company’s noise consultant (above).
Mr Fraser says Rotherham Council has not raised noise as an issue to refuse the application.
Planning guidance says noise should not exceed 55db or 10db above background, Mr Fraser says.
At night, drilling noise should not exceed World Health Organisation sleep disturbance limits. This should not exceed 42db at any noise sensitive property, he says. Noise in gardens is not an issue at night, he adds, and should not be used to measure noise.
The worst case noise during construction is 51db, during the daytime early. During drilling, the noise limit is below the WHO night time limits, Mr Fraser says. Noise will be controlled by a noise management plan, he says. Drilling is for a relatively short period time, he adds.
The noise predictions are based on worst case scenarios and would use well-tried mitigation techniques.
The limits will provide sufficient safeguard for public health and wellbeing, Mr Fraser says.
Mr Fraser says tonal noise is likely only when equipment has been misaligned. He has never encountered it on a vertical well site. It can occur on hard geology in a horizontal well.
Mr Steele asks whether a condition is needed for tonal noise. Mr Fraser says this would be in the noise management plan to be agreed with Rotherham Council. There would be no technical difficulty with this condition, he says.
11.45am Inspector’s questions to water quality consultant
The inspector, Stephen Roscoe, asks what would happen if there were problems with the groundwater. Duncan Russell, the water consultant for Ineos, says monitoring boreholes would monitor the level of groundwater, as well as water chemistry. In the unlikely event of a spill of fuel oil, there would be chemical activity which would picked up. Further monitoring would be done to look at site activities that could be responsible.
Mr Roscoe asks for more detail about monitoring. Mr Russell says the most intensive monitoring would be during drilling and testing. This could possibly be on a daily basis. After these stages, monitoring could become monthly.
Mr Russell says samples would be sent to a lab, which would identify sources of concern. Monitoring would be at a depth of 10-30m, unlikely below 50m.
Mr Roscoe says there is mention of an underground river. Mr Russell says these are very unusual. There are no caverns or large potholes that would indicate an underground river, he adds.
The site is on high ground. There is not much groundwater movement within the area of the site. The rates and volumes of flow are minor because of this, Mr Russell says.
Mr Russell says the design of the site and the borehole contain any surface spills.
11.42am Evidence of water quality consultant
Gordon Steele, for Ineos, introduces evidence from Duncan Russell.
Mr Russell tells the inquiry no statutory consultees objected to the application on the water environment. Mitigation measures to minimise the risk to the water environment will be used to acceptable levels. There are no unacceptable risk to the water environment. There are no grounds on this issue to refuse the application.
There are no public questions, or questions from Rotherham Council.
11.40am Evidence of air quality consultant
Gordon Steele, for Ineos, introduces evidence from the environmental witnesses. The witness says there are no air quality issues. There no questions.
The hearing resumes at 11.40am.
11.20am Review of evidence of well engineer
Gordon Steele, barrister for Ineos, re-examines Andrew Sloan, the independent well engineer.
Mr Steele asks Mr Sloan about the drilling rig. Mr Sloan says the drilling rig would be on site for three months. This is replaced by the workover rig. Most of these are truck mounted, about half the height and a third of the area.
Pressure transient testing
Mr Steele asks whether a PTT could become fracking. No, says Mr Sloan. Applying pressure between two balloons in the well has the same effect on the shale, he says.
Mr Steele asks about leaks. Mr Sloan says there will be no gas flow. There is no free gas in the shale. This well will not be fracked so there will be no free gas in the well.
Mr Sloan says it is not impossible for leaks to occur. It should not happen. But for a well such as this for the gas to move from the inside to the outside is highly improbable.
The cement is oil-based. It is specially made, supplied and inserted with a special tool, he says. It has to be approved by the well-examiner,he says.
Mr Steele asks about the technical reasons for 24-hour working. Mr Sloan says the process should be as efficient as possible. An open hole is not a good idea, he says. Formations can begin to creep in to the wellbore, he adds.
11.05am Questions from the inspector to well engineer
The inspector, Stephen Roscoe, puts questions to Andrew Sloan, Ineos consultant well engineer.
Fracking and pressure testing
Mr Roscoe asks about the difference between fracking and the proposed pressure transient test. Andrew Sloan, the well engineer, says fracking involves pumping large amounts of water and sand. He says the pressure transient test exerts pressure on a section of the well between two “balloons”.
Mr Roscoe asks about the number of pressure transient tests. Mr Goould says three is the usual number. The first test may produce ambiguity so others could be needed. Until you have drilled the well and understood the core, it is hard to say, Mr Goould says. He says he estimates between one test and five.
Mr Roscoe asks how drilling fits with the pressure test. Mr Goould says the well is drilled and completed. Then a smaller rig will be installed to carry out the pressure transient test.
Mr Roscoe asks about the height and scale of the rig to be used for the drilling. The only visualisations of rigs have been submitted by objectors. Mr Goould says the rig would be about 59m high. The workover rig would be about around 35m tall, probably truck-mounted so would have a smaller footprint.
The drilling rig would be about half the size of the inquiry room. The workover rig would be about a quarter of the room.
Mr Roscoe asks about control by other regulators. Mr Sloan says he has first hand experience of the Health and Safety Executive. It has to review the well design. It is not a permissioning regime, he says. Other witnesses will deal with the Environment Agency, he says. The HSE and EA will visit to sites to check that companies are doing what they said they would do.
Under the Infrastructure Act, companies now have to apply to the Department of Business, Energy and Infrastructure for hydraulic fracturing consent. There is input from the HSE and EA before this is issued. A new test is required for financial resilience, he says.
Mr Roscoe asks about the relationship between fracking consent and mini fracks. Mr Sloan says can’t answer this.
10.52am Questions for the public for Ineos well engineer
Andrew Sloan, independent well engineer, is asked questions by members of the public.
A questioner asks whether thee are any adverse effects of stopping the operation for noise events. Mr Sloan says not unless it was for a “significant amount of time”. He says several days would not be an issue. Several weeks would be.
He is asked whether 24-hour drilling is a commercial issue. No, he says, it is more efficient.
Deterioration of cement
Deborah Gibson, for Harthill Against Fracking, asks what is the reasonable amount of time for deterioration of cement. Mr Sloan says wells drilled in the 1930s that still have cement casings in the wells. Ms Gibson asks whether wells have lost their integrity through deteriorating steel or cement. Mr Sloane says deterioration is rarely in more than one casing layer.
Mrs Gibson asks how Mr Sloan accounts for wells that leak. Mr Sloan says the regulator would step in if there was hydrocarbon leaks at the surface. This would require multiple barriers to fail, Mr Sloan says. There have been hundreds of wells drilled on and offshore. Leaks are not an endemic issue, he says. There will be no gas flowing in this well, he says.
Andy Tickle, of CPRE, how sealing well works if it goes through old mine workings. Mr Sloan says there are no workings in this area. Mr Tickle says what would happen if the well hit a void. It would have to be a man-made void, Mr Sloan says. We would pump cement until it began to come up the well, Mr Sloan adds.
Pressure transient test
Lee Burgess asks about the risk to the community from the pressure transient test. None, says Mr Sloan. He says pressure is applied to a section of the well. The engineers then measure how quickly the pressure is released. Mr Sloan repeats there is zero risk from the pressure transient test.
On the properties of waste, Mr Goould says Ineos will have two full-time people analysing mud and samples on site. There are also geologists who record the rock. Between them we know what is there, Mr Goould says.
10.23am Evidence by Ineos well engineer
Andrew Sloan, above, an independent well engineer, gives evidence for Ineos. He tells the inquiry he has also worked as a well inspector.
Mr Sloan says the industry does not “self-regulate”. The regulations assume that the industry is best equipped to regulate.
The well design has to be approved by the well examiner. Weekly reports are sent to the Health and Safety Executive. The HSE does check information by site visits.
Shale gas wells are drilled to the same standards as other onshore oil and gas wells, of which there have been 350 drilled since 2005.
10.29am Well construction methodology
The current well design is based on other local wells, Mr Sloan says. The fresh water aquifer will be protected by casings of steel and cement. The HSE has not commented on the application. He refers to a model shown to the inquiry.
The risk to local drinking water from drilling is negligible, he says.
The risk to surface water is also negligible, he says. Potential spills will be contained on the site. Drilling muds are not toxic, he says.
A site safety plan will be drawn up for the HSE. Regular drills are held to test the procedures, Mr Sloane says.
Gas monitors are used on the site to check for build up of gases to dangerous levels. On any onshore well, none of these detectors have identified leaks of gases, he says.
These methodologies reduce the risk of water or air pollution to levels below acceptable levels. The regulatory regime is robust, he says.
10.34am Harthill scheme
Mr Steele, for Ineos, asks about concerns that the technology is novel and the company needs to bring in experience from the US. Mr Sloane says the well is very simple and straightforward. They are drilled all over the world, he says. The same technology is used to abstract water from the aquifer, Mr Goould says. He says this sort of drilling has been used in the UK since the 1930s. He says it would be inaccurate to say Ineos doesn’t know what it is doing.
Mr Steele asks Mr Sloane to comment on concerns raised by Harthill Against Fracking. Mr Sloane says considerable work has been done to avoid mine workings. If mineworkings were encountered with water in them, the water in the mine would not come into the well because the water pressures were balanced, he says.
The inspector, Stephen Roscoe, asks whether the mineworks were at a depth where Ineos would be using water-based drilling muds.
10.39am Scale model
Mr Sloane says the model shows sealing with cement and steel. Once the well has been constructed, mineworkings water would not be able to enter the well, he says.
10.40am Radon and methane leaks
Mr Sloane says radon is not expected to be detected. There would be warning detectors. It would be dispersed quickly, he adds.
On methane in the coal measures, he says, the well would be sealed. The pressure in the well would prevent methane from the coal measures entering the borehole.
Asked if these are reasons for concern, Mr Sloane says “no”.
10.42am Hydrogen sulphide
Mr Sloane says hydrogen sulphide has not be identified in wells in the area. There would be monitors on the site.
10.43am Heavy metals
Mr Sloane says heavy metals would not be used in the drilling muds. Rock from the well would be captured and taken to a licensed waste disposal site.
The inspector, Stephen Roscoe, asks where the waste would go. Mr Sloane says the water based muds would be sent to a waste treatment site. The oil based drilling muds could be separated from rocks. Mr Roscoe asks where this would be happen. Mr Sloane says it would happen at a waste site.
Mr Steele asks about noise monitoring on a rig where he is working currently. Mr Sloane there are monitors at what he calls trigger receptors just outside the site. These trigger monitors at homes near the site to see if noise can be recorded.
If there is a noise event triggered, Mr Sloane, says there is instantaneous play back on the site. It is often a motorbike or ambulance, he says. If it was site noise, the operation would be modified. Something would be switched off, or slowed down, or stopped, he says.
“It is pretty instantaneous – within five minutes”
The trigger is set below the condition noise level to give advance warning of a noise event, he says.
10.09am Review of geological evidence
Gordon Steele, for Ineos, re-examines David Goold, for the company.
Mr Steele asks whether the Coal Authority has responsibility for faults. Mr Roscoe, the inspector, suggests this is leading. Mr Steele asks what are the responsibilities of the Coal Authority. Mr Goold says there safety responsibilities to local residents and the environment.
Mr Steele says if there were concerns about seismicity would the coal authority allow permission. Mr Goold says the permission would be refused.
Mr Steele asks about seismic surveys. Mr Goold says this is 2D seismic surveying that is in the public domain. Ineos has been reprocessed the seismic data and interpreted it. This shows that we are satisfied about seismic results, he says.
Mr Goold says Ineos has also done 3D seismic surveys. This has also been interpreted and has confirmed the lack of faulting around the site. Mr Goold says there could be a fault within 250m of the surface location but it might not intersect the well and that would be acceptable.
He adds “I cannot see any evidence of any faults that would impact on the proposed operation.”
Pressure transient test
Mr Steele asks about the test. Mr Goold says the test would be done in one zone and could be done in another two zones at shallower depths.
Mr Steele asks about the difference with fracking. Mr Goold says its about the amount of pressure applied. A lot more pressure is needed to apply to the borehole. It is a fundamentally different process, Mr Goold says.
Would you require different permissions, Mr Steele asks, Mr Goold says fracking would need a fracturing consent from the government. Fracking can’t be done, Mr Goold adds.
9.50am Questions from the inspector
The inquiry inspector, Stephen Roscoe, puts questions to David Goold, for Ineos.
9.57 Pressure transient test
asks what is the difference between high volume hydraulic fracturing and pressure transient testing. Mr Goold, for Ineos, says the pressure test will not fracture rocks around the borehole. Mr Goold says Ineos does not propose to do a mini frack.
Mr Roscoe asks about the difference between a mini frack and a pressure transient test. Mr Goold says it is the level of pressure.
Mr Roscoe asks whether there are limits in the permit on what can be carried out. Mr Goold says there could not be a mini frack. Why, asks Mr Roscoe. Because we have to describe processes accurately and the permit does not include a pressure transient test.
Mr Roscoe asks whether Mr Goold is aware of the Great Yorkshire Fault. Mr Goold says faults are known by various names. Seismic surveys from the 1980s have been used to produced a geological model, he says. We do not a fault to cross the well, Mr Goold says. Within a 250m radius of the well, he adds. We have a very detailed model, Mr Goold says.
10.05am Talks with the Coal Authority
Mr Goold, for Ineos, says the company is required to submit an agreement for the borehole to the Coal Authority. This is a process that comes after the planning decision.
Mr Roscoe suggests this is akin to a commercial agreement. Mr Goold says it is partly that. The Coal Authority has a duty to protect the coal. But he says it is also about safety. That is why the company has to submit so many details on the design of the well. The well can’t be drilled without this permission, Mr Goold adds.
Evidence on hydrogeology
David Goold, for Ineos, gives evidence on the process of drilling the well to protect groundwater.
He says no objections have been raised by statutory consultees, particularly the Environment Agency or the Coal Authority.
He says the technology for drilling the borehole is not new or unproven in the UK. It has been used safely for oil and gas, water and coal exploration in the area for more than a century.
Mr Goold says the groundwater aquifers are protected from waste generated by the operation by “robust regulatory requirements” .
Ineos has obtained all relevant seismic records from the 1980s and new data has been obtained. He confirms there is an “absence of major aulting at, and in the vicinity of the site”.
Evidence on health impacts
Dr Andrew Buroni, technical director of health at RRPS, gave evidence that health concerns raised by member of the public are addressed in the regulatory planning and permitting process. Other concerns relate to different projects, of different scales an on difference continents operating to different regulatory regimes.
He says the Ineos environmental report is “a thorough investigation of the potential health effects of the proposed project, is compliant with all environmental standards set to project health. Changes in environmental health pathways neither present a concentration or exposure sufficient to quantify any measurable adverse outcome.
9.30am Inquiry opens
The inspector, Stephen Roscoe, opens the inquiry