Planning officers have for the third time recommended approval of proposals by Egdon Resources for 15 years of oil production at its site at Wressle near Scunthorpe.
The scheme will be discussed at a meeting of North Lincolnshire Council’s planning committee next week (28 November 2018).
At two previous meetings last year, councillors voted against the officers’ advice and refused consent for similar schemes. On both occasions, councillors said there was insufficient information to allay concerns about water contamination.
The inspector at a public inquiry in November 2017 also refused planning permission, dismissing a series of appeals by Egdon. He said the company had failed to demonstrate there would not be unacceptable adverse impacts to groundwater and streams. He was particularly concerned that there had been no ground investigation report and there was no evidence that the liner and stone layer covering the site provided adequate protection.
In an 86-page report, published today, planners said the latest proposal should be approved subject to 21 conditions.
Despite more than 80 objections, the planners said the scheme would not harm residential amenity, highway safety, ecology, archaeology, water resources or flooding. They also said it would contribute to energy security and would help provide a mix of energy sources during the transition to a low carbon economy.
The report concluded
“there are no material adverse impacts of the development that would significantly and demonstrably outweigh benefits”.
The 1.85ha site is between Wressle and Broughton and was originally granted planning permission in 2013. The nearest homes are 530m away and the site is 700m from Broughton Far Wood site of special scientific interest.
The scheme to be discussed next week proposes to:
- Install additional security facilities
- Extend wellsite areas by 0.12ha
- Reconfigure the site to provide new impermeable membrane, drainage system and surface water interceptor
- Install bunded area for storage tanks, tanker loading and new road system
- Install production facilities and equipment
- Install two new groundwater monitoring boreholes and deepening of three of the existing four boreholes
- Carry out workover of the borehole
- Carry out one or more well stimulation operations:
- Acidisation – described as injecting acid solution 4-6m into the surrounding rocks to improve oil flow
- Proppant squeeze – described as pumping sand and liquid into surrounding rocks to create fractures
- Sidetrack drilling with rig up to 40m
- Produce oil and gas for 15 years
- Install gas engine to generate electricity and connection to the grid
Is it fracking?
Egdon has said its scheme is for “conventional” oil and gas production and is not a fracking application.
Opponents of the application have said the use of proppant squeeze means the proposal should be considered “unconventional” and a form of fracking.
Planning officers said in their report that proppant squeeze should not be confused with high volume hydraulic fracturing.
Changes to the application
According to the planning officers’ report, Egdon had provided updated and revised technical reports and drawings.
The council’s advisers, JBA Consulting, concluded that the new documents appear to have addressed the main weaknesses identified by the inquiry inspector. The new application includes:
- Geotechnical investigation
- Ground investigation report
- Civil Structural Design Statement
- Proposed redesign and reconfiguration of the wellsite
- Proposed installation of new impermeable membrane and additional protection layers
- Tests on suitability of the surface aggregate of the site
- Independent hydrogeological risk assessment by Envireau Water
- Evidence of a continuous impermeable claystone capping layer above the primary aquifer
- Risk to local water supplies assessed as low-none.
JBA said it was important that the proposed measures for the site were enforced through planning conditions
According to the officers’ report, Broughton Town Council had strongly objected to the proposal. There were also 80 letters of objection.
The reasons for objection included:
- Applicant seeks to mislead by disassociating its proposal, which involves proppant squeeze with acid, from fracking
- Repeated well stimulation and further wells would be required
- The use of proposed hydrofluoric acid is hazardous
- The procedures would not be regulated
- The proposal does not assess the impact on climate change and would increase dependence on fossil fuels
- Risk of contamination of surface streams and groundwater
- Poor quality site containment measures
- Impact on neighbouring sites of special scientific interest and nature reserves
- Industrialisation of surrounding countryside
- Noise would destroy tranquillity of the area and adversely affect health and wellbeing
- Air and light pollution
- Significant increase in traffic
- Potential for seismic activity because the site is on a prominent fault
- Little or no economic benefit to the local area
- Risk of the company not being able to restore the site
The planners said there was no objection or no response from the council’s highways, environment, environmental health, public rights of way and archaeology teams. Natural England had said it was satisfied that the proposal would not have a significant impact on Broughton Far Wood SSSI if the proposed flare input was below 20MW. Appleby Parish Council said it had insuffient technical knowledge to comment
The planners said they had received 14 letters in support of the application. The reasons included:
- Proposal would provide “huge employment benefits and tax revenues”
- All issues raised by inspector at previous inquiry have been addressed
- With Brexit, the UK needs to become self-sufficient
What the planners said on key issues
Principle: The proposal complies with development plan policy and is acceptable in principle.
Landscape: Impacts from the drill rig and lighting would be temporary and were described as “negligible significance”.
Hydrology/hydrogeology: “It is considered that the risks of an adverse impact upon groundwater is very low and that there would be appropriate measures in place to ensure the protection of ground and surface water and nearby watercourses.”
Ecology: “The proposed development is unlikely to have any adverse impact on protected or notable species or habitats.”
Heritage: The risk of adverse impacts on local heritage is “very low”.
Air quality: Very low risk of adverse impact on air quality for local residents or sensitive habitats.
Noise: Proposed mitigation will “adequately protect the amenity of neighbouring residential properties”.
Highways: “It is considered that that the impacts of the vehicle movements associated with the proposed development are limited in their duration and extent”.
Lighting: Very low risk of adverse impact from external and artificial lighting and impacts would be controlled by suggested conditions.
Waste: “the proposed development poses no unacceptable risk with regard to the production, storage and/or disposal of waste”.
Seismicity: The inquiry inspector concluded that there was not an unacceptable risk of harm and nothing has changed.
Climate change: Fossil fuels have a role to play in providing for UK energy needs during transition to a low carbon economy.
Community involvement: Egdon had not submitted a statement of community involvement with the application. But the company was proposing to form a community liaison group, should permission be granted.
The officers proposed 21 conditions. These included:
- Work must begin within three years of the date of permission
- Work must comply with a traffic management plan
- Oils, fuels, lubricants and other liquids should be located on an impervious base and/or within an impervious bunded area or self-bunding tanks
- No ground or surface water contaminated with oil, grease or other pollutants should be discharged into any ditch or watercourse
- Assembly and demobilisation of the drilling rig and site construction work should be limited to 7am-7pm, Monday-Saturday
- Limits on noise produced by the site
- Requirements for lighting and dust management plans
- Load-bearing test before the start of development
The planning committee is due to meet at 2pm, on Wednesday 28 November 2018, at the Council Chamber, Civic Centre, Ashby Road, Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire DN16 1AB.
DrillOrDrop will be reporting live from the meeting.
18 June 2013
Planning permission first granted for a sell site
19 July 2014
Wressle well spudded
4 September 2015
Egdon announces suspension of testing operations
20 June 2016
Planners validate new application for site retention and 15 years of oil production
3 January 2017
Planners recommend approval ion of the site and long-term production of oil
11 January 2017
Councillors vote by 6-3 against proposals Details
4 May 2017
Egdon re-submits previously-refused application
23 June 2017
Planners recommend approval Details
3 July 2017
Councillors vote by 10-7 against Details
4 January 2018
Planning inspector dismisses Egdon’s appeals against refusals of planning permission for oil production and company instructed to restore the site by 28 April 2018 Details
11 July 2018
Third application for oil production at Wressle validated. Link to application
28 July 2018
Planners recommend approval of extension of planning permission Details
1 August 2018
Councillors vote unanimously against extension of planning permission Details
22 November 2018
Planners recommend approval of third application for long-term oil production
28 November 2018
Planning committee meeting to consider third application