This post has live updates from the meeting of North Lincolnshire Council discussing Egdon Resources’ proposal for long-term oil production at the Wressle site near Scunthorpe.
This is the third time the company has sought permission from the council. Two previous applications were refused and an appeal was rejected by a planning inspector after a public inquiry a year ago.
For the third time, planning officers have recommended approval of the application. The company is seeking 15-years of oil production, including the possible use of acidisation or proppant squeeze – described by opponents as a form of acid fracking. Egdon also wants to reconfigure the site and extend the area, adding production facilities and a gas engine to generate electricity. More details here
There have been more than 80 letters opposing the scheme, including strong objections from Broughton Town Council. The council has also received 14 letters in support.
The Conservative-controlled planning committee is expected to hear this afternoon from the company and opponents of the scheme.
Reporting from this meeting has bee made possible by individual donations from DrillOrDrop readers
3.48 Permission refused
Councillors unanimously refused the application.
3.46pm Cllr David Wells
Cllr Wells says he has been left with a doubt. The risks are not within the tolerance he can support.
Cllr Wells says the evidence on air quality was not relevant to the application. But the evidence against the scheme was compelling and he will not support the application
3.44pm Cllr Mick Grant
Cllr Grant says he will vote against. Egdon has not proved it is not a form of fracking, he says. I will be voting to refuse, he says.
People have said they have money involved in Egdon and want a return. The company should have got a move on, he says. You should be ashamed of yourselves. This is their pension fund, he says. We are not against you. For me it is the way you are going to go about it.
3.42pm Cllr Sandra Bainbridge
Cllr Bainbridge says decisions have long and short-term implications. There has been nothing I have heard today that has changed my opinion on refusing the application, she says. There are special issues on this site that make this a step too far. We have a responsibility to listen to local people and act on their behalf, she says.
3.41pm Ward councillor, Ivan Glover
Cllr Glover, the other councillor for the ward which includes Wressle, seconds a motion to refuse the application.
3.38pm Cllr John Evison
Cllr Evison, the committee vice chair, says he worked in the steelworks as an electrical engineer. This gave me a healthy degree of scepticism, he says. You can have an element of risk but no system is foolproof.
I can’t really see a lot of benefits to the community, he says. What I have heard does not reassure me. There is great concern about contamination of water. It would have an unacceptable impact on local residents and the economy if an accident happened.
The development is contrary to a number of local policies, he says. He proposes refusal of the application.
3.37pm Planning officer
The planning officer makes minor changes to some conditions proposed in his report.
3.34pm Cllr John Briggs, mayor of north Lincolnshire
How many applications have to be submitted, Cllr Briggs asks. We cannot ignore the risks involved, he says. There are new proposals coming in with this scheme. Why should we be the people who face that risk. The company has offered a sweetner, he says. But can we afford to risk the British Steel site, our water courses, our jobs?
Do we support this? Why didn’t Egdon tidy up the site before the inquiry? I am totally against this application. I would urge this committee to be consistent and refuse the application.
3.32pm Ward councillor: Holly Mumby Croft
The councillor says she has consistently had concerns about the scheme. There are deep concerns held by residents. There are properties in Wressle supplied by a private borehole. Please consider refusing this application today. She asks whether threats to water have been mitigated sufficiently.
3.23pm Mark Abbott, Managing Director of Egdon Resources
Mr Abbott describes the operations to be used at Wressle. There have been no objections to the use of acid from Public Health England, despite the concern of opponents.
There will be no acid fracking at Wressle, he says. Acid would be injected into the rock at 4-5m around the wellbore and below the rock’s fracture pressure, he says.
The proposed scheme is for extraction of conventional oil. There is no risk to seismicity but this will be monitored.
The committee hears that developing oil from Wressle and action against climate change would not be mutually exclusive. The use of renewables would not mean the phasing out of fossil fuels. 11 litres of oil are used in making the average computer, the meeting is told. Fossil fuels are also used in a range of domestic products, supporting many thousands of jobs. UK industries rely on the supply of fossil fuels. The country is increasingly relying on imported fossil fuels.
Domestically produced oil and gas have a lower carbon footprint and are highly regulated, the meeting is told.
Mr Abbott says the company has addressed the committee on many occasions. Egdon has operated across the region for many years and is proud of its environmental record. We will adhere to the highest environmental standards, he says. There were no complaints during the drilling and test period at Wressle, he says.
We want to listen to any concerns from residents, so that we can respond quickly, he says. A community liaison group will be formed if the application were approved. There would be a local community fund from revenues from Wressle oil.
There are no planning grounds to justify refusal, the Egdon team tells the meeting. It would not conflict with the need to challenge the threat of climate change. The planning inspector’s concerns had been met. The site has been redesigned with a new liner to protect the groundwater, councillors are told. Additional groundwater monitoring boreholes will be installed. We ask that you come to a fair and impartial decision.
3.13pm Supporter of the application – Paul Foster, planning consultant for Egdon
Mr Foster thanks the planning officer for his report. The application accords with the relevant local and national policies, he says.
He says an independent consultant, JBA, for the council concluded that the main weaknesses identified by the inspector at a public inquiry have been addressed or could be addressed by conditions. The consultant arrived at the conclusions on their own, Mr Foster says. The proposed revised containment design is appropriate to protest the British Steel boreholes.
Mr Foster says JBA concluded that the risks to groundwater were low or very low and accompanied by mitigation measures. He says there is a new liner installed over the existing liner. JBA proposed planning conditions, including approval of a quality assurance plan for the new liner.
The new design of the site means there would no release to ground or surface water and any risks can be managed, Mr Foster says. This means the scheme meets local planning policy. The application should not be refused on this basis, he says.
Mr Foster says there have been no objections from the Environment Agency or the council’s environmental health officer. British Steel has no concerns, he says. An individual who wrote says it is incredible that we import so much oil and gas when we have so much here. Lincolnshire has dozens of wells that have operated successfully for many years, Mr Foster says.
It will be many decades before oil and gas are not the drivers of UK industry.
3.07pm Opponent of Wressle application – Melanie Dale
Ms Dale likened the scheme to a “ticking time bomb”. This well will fail in time, she says. The question is what happens what happens it fails – who will pick up the pieces.
The county is already heavily industrialised, she says. It is sometimes named as the second worst for air pollution in the UK, she adds. 15 years of production should be considered for its impact on air quality.
She says any pollution of water could affect the borehole supplying the local steelworks, affecting jobs and suppliers.
Ms Dale there are mistakes in the technical documents with the application. She questions the independence of Egdon consultants.
The only communication that Egdon has had with the local community was right at the start of the process. An event at the local community centre focused on the process not being fracking. The community’s worries have not been addressed, she says. There is not enough information for local people or councils.
3.03pm Opponent of Wressle application – Jean Turner
Ms Turner tells the meeting she is concerned about the impact of the scheme on water quality.
She says the public inquiry to previous applications heard that the site liner, designed to protect groundwater, was in shreds and the wall around the bund was made of soil and full of rabbit holes.
Ms Turner says the report commissioned by the council on the site for this application agreed with her that the site surface should be concreted and surrounded by concrete walls.
She says the injection of water and chemicals down the well under pressure generates new cracks and fractures in a previous intact rock mass. This could cause earthquakes, she says.
New evidence on the effects of particulates on the heart has revealed increased risks of heart attacks.
She says air and water must not be contaminated and cannot be replaced.
2.59pm Opponent of Wressle application – Julie Field
Ms Field says the UK’s water supply is at risk. Reservoirs are heavily depleted, she says.
Egdon’s proposals would use hundreds of gallons per day. Sources must be protected because they cannot be replaced, she says. The application has the potential for chemical pollution of water.
This proposal is for the first hydrofluoric acid frack in the UK, Ms Field says.
The applicant has declared three chemicals but others are used according to the EA permit. The chemical data sheets do not have information on the effects on the human body although there are at least 14 illnesses they can trigger.
Ms Field says Scunthorpe already has high levels of fine particle air pollution. Egdon would add to this by flaring 10 tonnes of gas from the Wressle site.
She says UK Onshore Oil and Gas recorded between January 2013 and June 2016 a total of 1,768 leaks, spills and unintended releases of oil, gas and chemicals. More than 20%of incidents involved the release of half a tonne or more. One incident was not reported for six months, she says.
The government has said improving air quality is a priority, Ms Field says.
“Your council can continue to help by refusing this application.”
2.54pm Opponent of Wressle application – Elizabeth Williams
Ms Williams tells the committee that the environmental permit for Wressle describes the operation as hydraulic fracturing for conventional oil using hydrofluoric acid squeeze. She says this is a development that becomes “more and more unacceptable, locally and nationally year on year”.
She says “We are all worn ragged by this development”.
Ms Williams says there were “very many errors and oversights that went unchecked during the exploratory stage and led to the refusal by the planning inspectorate.
She says a similar scheme, by Europa, at Leith Hill in Surrey was shut down.
She says Egdon underplays the extent of the oilwell development. She says hydrofluoric acid squeeze has never been used onshore in the UK before. Hydrofluoric acid would be delivered tens of metres into the formation at around 5,000psi pressure.
“Here at Wressle we could be facing the first acid-frac onshore UK to recover tight, hard-to-access oil from conventional sandstone reserves.”
Ms Williams says hydrofluoric acid is one of the most deadly chemical compounds known to industrial chemists.
The committee has already refused permission twice and the planning inspectorate said no, she says.
This hazard needs a 100% guarantee of safety, which is not humanly possible, she says, because of system failure, worker fatigue and error, extreme weather events. Singly or together this could quickly lead to critical incidents and serious accidents.
There can be no third chance on this plan, she says. The wrong site plan was submitted on the plan, she says, only spotted by campaigners.
15 more years of more fossil fuels production in North Lincolnshire would be dangerously retrogressive.
“Please don’t let Lincolnshire spearhead the way to oilfield expansion using a new generation of extraction methods at a time when critically urgent climate change imperatives should be guiding us in a diametrically opposite direction.”
2.29pm Opponent of Wressle application – Andrew Mcleod
Mr McLeod says:
“We are now living in the reality of a changed climate, even with the “only” 1 degree of global warming that we have already caused. Scientists are increasingly using the term “climate breakdown”; climate “change” no longer captures the terrifying urgency of their warnings. To avoid catastrophic risk, the latest UN report says, we have a decade to halve CO2 emissions. To be clear: not another decade to start doing it, but a decade to have it done. The time for procrastination is well and truly over.”
Even if Egdon never extract more than their estimated recoverable reserve from Wressle-1, an additional million tonnes of CO2 will be released. But we all know they won’t stop there – there’s a lot more oil in the Wressle field than that, and they will keep coming back for another well, and another, until they have got every last drop they can. That could put another 8 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. The world is massively over-endowed with hydrocarbon reserves that must never be produced.
Mr McLeod describes natural disasters linked to climate change. Climate change is rewriting the stories of millions of people around the world, he says.
Scientists say climate breakdown is preventable but only if “we turn away, now, from exploitative resource use that favours the short-term profits of major polluters like the oil and gas industry over the long-term well-being of human civilization.”
The first step is self-evident: absolutely no new fossil fuel developments. None. That means no new coal mines, no new oil wells, no new gas fields, no more fracking, no more feeble excuses about domestic energy security and home-produced carbon pollution being fractionally less bad than the imported version”
We have already dithered for so long that achieving that target is barely feasible, and every further year that we delay the feasibility halves, Mr McLeod says.
“Your planning officer’s advice that Wressle-1 will help us transition to a low-carbon economy is manifestly false and I urge you to disregard it. Humanity is racing our planet towards an environmental and social catastrophe, and the scale and urgency of the required transition exceed by an enormous margin the timid goals of any plan which includes new fossil fuels.
Wressle-1 is yet another nail in the carbon coffin that we are making for ourselves. Please, please, do not provide Egdon with the hammer to drive it home.
2.48pm Wressle application discussion begins
Committee chair, Nigel Sherwood, introduces the Egdon application for Wressle.
2.27pm Application for housing estate in Belton
Decision adjourned for a site visit.
2.18pm Application for a house extension
2.07pm Committee considers housing development
2pm Meeting begins
Cllr Nigel Sherwood opens the meeting
1.55pm Egdon team arrives
Managing Director Mark Abbott and consultants arrive.
1.35pm Participants taking their seats
1.30pm Small protest outside meeting
Reporting from this meeting has bee made possible by individual donations from DrillOrDrop readers