IGas challenge over Ellesmere Port well test heads for public inquiry

Ellesmere Port Portside well site

Site (outlined in red) of the IGas Portside North well site at Ellemere Port. Source: planning application to Cheshire West and Chester Council

A public inquiry will decide whether IGas should be allowed to test its gas well at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire.

The Planning Inspectorate has published initial details of IGas’s challenge to the refusal of permission for the scheme at its wellsite at Portside North. The date and venue for the inquiry hearings have yet to be confirmed.

The company lodged its appeal last month, just before the deadline.

It is contesting the decision by Cheshire West and Chester Council on 25 January 2018 to refuse planning permission. (DrillOrDrop live updates)

IGas said it was not seeking to frack the well but it was proposing to use acidisation to stimulate gas production. Testing would be in the Pentre chert formation, which IGas said was not shale.

Members of the council’s planning committee decided the application did not comply with local planning policy. This required oil and gas applications to address climate change and make the best of opportunities for renewable energy.

The Portside North Well was drilled in November-December 2014. The original planning permission referred to coal bed methane exploration but the well was drilled 1,000m below the coal measures.


More than 2,200 people objected to the testing application.

Cheshire West and Chester Council said today that all written representations had been sent to the Planning Inspectorate.

People who want to comment on the appeal or change their previous representation can do so by 21 September 2018.

Comments can be made online using the reference APP/A0665/W/18/3207952. They can also be emailed to the case officer ( or posted to: Tim Salter, The Planning Inspectorate, Room 3J Kite Wing, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Bristol, BS1 6PN.

7 replies »

  1. Where have I heard this before… Drilling (down or out, what’s the difference?) without permission. Oh no, we’re not fracking, just acidising. Acidising shares the negatives of fracking, except there are higher concentrations of chemicals. By permission creep or by accident, oh dear, the way will have been prepared for future fracking. I suppose they will continue wrongly to call this conventional too. So predictable.

    • [Edited by moderator] Kathryn – leave the oil and gas well stimulation to the experts. How do you think water well productivity is cleaned up / enhanced? How do you think our drinking water is made potable?

      • Oil companies and their PR people frequently tell us that acidising oil wells is clearly no big deal because water well drillers do it all the time. That is not true, and anyway, there’s a huge difference between acidising a water well and acidising an oil well.

        We interviewed a water well drilling expert, and learnt that acidisation is very rarely used in water wells. What’s more, cases where acidisation is used ‘are getting fewer and farther between. Acidising would be used only when a very high-yielding borehole is required, when someone has a ginormous demand for water,’ he said. ‘Mostly the rock itself and its natural fracture systems are enough. When, rarely, we acidise, it is typically before the first pump test, after drilling, not to maintain or improve an existing well.’

        If it is done, no other chemicals are used other than hydrochloric acid. For water wells, drillers are aiming for a straight, vertical borehole, never deviated, never lateral/horizontal as tends to be the case with modern oil or gas wells. The wells are lined with perforated plastic piping rather than steel, so corrosion inhibitors are not needed. It is not done at pressure, so this is not an acid frack or even matrix acidising. And water wells are typically much shallower than oil or gas wells, and of course drilled into a clean aquifer. Maximum depth a water well might be drilled to is ‘400 metres or more’ but it’s usually less. The deepest water well we know of in Sussex is 250m.

        The acid solution is gently pumped down a straight pipe that they insert within the plastic lining of the well to the required depth. There will be a water column in the pipe, so they can’t/don’t need to block it off, although it is possible to use a ‘grommet’ a kind of balloon that they can inflate to block the pipe and confine the acid to the upper section that they want to acidise. They never use the gels and foams that the oil and gas industry sometimes uses nowadays to force the acid to flow to the precise target area of rock.

        What flows back from an acidised water well is a diluted version of what went in – very dilute hydrochloric acid – but nevertheless workers have to wear appropriate protective gear and follow strict health and safety rules, and the water is tested again and again until it is utterly pure.

        Oil and gas wells, by contrast, are typically drilled much deeper than water wells. They are drilled into hydrocarbon-bearing rocks, typically also a very salty environment. Numerous other chemicals are used in addition to hydrochloric acid, for example biocides, solvents, corrosion inhibitors, iron inhibitors… While an oil or gas company may in the first instance ‘acid wash’ their well and its immediate vicinity, exerting no pressure other than that supplied by gravity, at test stage they are likely to increase the pressure, and at production stage they are likely to acid frack at greater pressure. What flows back from an acidised or fracked oil or gas well includes reaction products of injected chemicals and the formation rocks, remnants of the injected chemicals, and substances released or leached out from the formation, including salts (perhaps five times the salinity of seawater), hydrocarbons, heavy metals and possibly Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORMs).

  2. From the Planning Meeting which refused the application, comments reported by DOD:

    “Council officers have recommended the application for approval.

    The application complies with local and national planning policy. Permits for the development have been issued in 2017 by the Environment Agency, he says. There have been no objection from statutory consultees.

    MS Hore says there are no sound land-based reasons to warrant an objection to this application. She says councillors have to balance their role as members of the planning committee and elected representatives.

    Ms Hore says members are clearly not happy with the application. The visual impact of the rig would be difficult to defend, she says. Ms Hore suggests a reason for refusal would be that the application does not meet local planning policy on climate change and renewable energy.”

    The Councillors couldn’t even come up with a valid reason to refuse. This Appeal won’t take long to be approved by the Inspector. Costs should be awarded against the Planning Committee for wasting everyone’s time and money, including any anti groups who go along and object without any good planning reasons. More ammunition for PDR and and taking these applications to a National level.

  3. Each of these Appeals, when no sound reasons have been given for rejection, are dictating that local “democracy” will be circumvented. The antis are the cause of this.

    Actions have consequences.

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