People have just over a fortnight to comment on new policies that will be used to decide on shale gas and fracking schemes in Lancashire for the next 16 years.
The county has large areas of oil and gas exploration licences and the area near Blackpool saw the start of fracking of the UK’s first horizontal shale gas well last month.
A public consultation on a draft revised minerals plan runs until 28 November 2018. The plan, prepared by the county council and Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen councils, will be used until 2034.
After the consultation, the document will be examined at public hearings by a planning inspector. It is due to be adopted in Spring 2020.
The revised plan has draft policies on onshore oil and gas exploration, appraisal and production. It specifically refers for the first time to hydraulic fracturing and unconventional reserves. But unlike the minerals plan for North Yorkshire, there is no local definition of fracking, or specific restrictions, such as set-back distances or buffer zones.
Lancashire’s draft minerals exploration policy (MW2) says:
“Proposals for minerals exploration activities will be assessed against the effects of exploration activity rather than on the merits of any possible future proposals for commercial extraction”
The onshore oil and gas policy (MW17) says proposals would be supported only where the proposal is:
- Sited in the least sensitive location from which the target formation can be accessed
- Directly accessible from, or close to, the primary route network
- Sited, designed and operated to minimise environmental and amenity impacts
The policy also requires:
- The cumulative impacts of the proposal and other projects are acceptable
- It can be demonstrated that there will no adverse impact on the integrity of the geological structure
- It can be demonstrated that greenhouse gases associated with fugitive emissions will not lead to unacceptable adverse environmental impacts
- Operations are for an agreed, temporary length of time
- The site is restored at the earliest practicable opportunity
For appraisal schemes, any gas should be used, rather than flared. At the production stage, there should be the minimum number of well sites and locations should be in the least sensitive locations.
According to the policy, operators should present an overall scheme for production, which must:
“demonstrate that extraction, transportation and reclamation can be undertaken in a satisfactory way and that the potential risk form hazards can be kept to acceptable levels”.
Directional drilling could help locate sites away from sensitive areas and could minimise the number of sites needed, the policy states.
At the production stage, decision-makers should also consider the need for gathering stations, compressors, scrubbers, onsite generators, pipelines and cables.
The strategy suggests that fracking could take place in exploration, appraisal and production stages of development.
How to comment