Regulation

Live news updates: Day 1 of inquiry into IGas test plans at Ellesmere Port

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This post has live updates from the opening day of the inquiry into IGas’s appeal against the refusal of planning permission for testing at its Ellesmere Port site.

The company is seeking to test the commercial viability of gas flows in a well drilled in 2014.

Cheshire West and Chester Council opposed the scheme in January 2018 because councillors said the scheme failed to mitigates the effects on climate change.

The hearing in Chester is expected to last six or seven days. It will hear from representatives of IGas, Cheshire West and Chester Council, the campaign group, Frack Free Ellesmere Port & Upton and local people.

Reporting at this inquiry has been made possible by donations from individual DrillOrDrop readers

Preview of the inquiry and link to inquiry page on DrillOrDrop


Key points

  • Inquiry inspector accused of pre-determining climate evidence
  • Discussion on whether inspector should recuse himself because of connections with IGas consultant
  • “Gas is a fossil fuel. It is a climate generator. Your fight here is crucial” – Nathalie Bennett, Green Party
  • Flaring dismissed as best available technique for dealing with waste gas – council witness
  • IGas should have considered collecting waste gas, rather than flaring – council expert
  • Decision-makers should take account of the social cost of emissions from the onshore oil and gas industry – council
  • Government support for shale gas does not mean that exploration must be permitted in the wrong location – Frack Free Ellesmere Port & Upton
  • Emissions left after mitigation are the inevitable impacts of exploration – IGas

5.28pm: Inquiry closes for the day

The inquiry resumes at 9.30am on 16 January 2019

5.25pm: Questions from the inspector to Dr Paul Balcombe

The inspector, Brian Cook, asks what Dr Paul Balcombe, climate change for Cheshire West and Chester Council, was comparing the emissions to when he said he was surprised. Dr Balcombe says there are hard to find figures for exploration emissions figures.

Every other exploration well may generate the same amount, Mr Cook says. This may not be exceptional at all, Mr Cook suggests. Dr Balcombe agrees.

4.06pm: Cross-examination continues of Dr Paul Balcombe

Emissions

Giles Cannock, for IGas,  puts it to Dr Paul Balcombe, an expert witness for the council on climate change, that appropriate mitigation techniques should be employed where practical. Dr Balcombe agrees.

Mr Cannock refers to the report by the Committee on Climate Change that says extraction of shale gas at scale does not comply with UK climate targets unless three tests are met. Dr Balcombe says there is ambiguity in the definition of production in the CCC report.

Mr Cannock says the three tests do no apply to exploration. He adds that strict monitoring and mitigation meets one of the CCC tests. The government argues that all the tests will be met, Mr Cannock adds.

Dr Balcombe says methane emissions during exploration have had less attention than needed. Two of the three tests are relevant to production, Dr Balcombe agrees.

Mr Cannock puts it to Dr Balcombe that using the gas would comply with industry guidelines and national policy. Dr Balcombe agrees.

Robert Griffiths, barrister for Cheshire West and Chester Council, says the line of cross examination in unfair because Dr Balcombe is not a planning or policy witness. Mr Cannock says he is testing the relevance of the evidence and whether the application is best available techniques.

The inspector, Brian Cook, says Dr Balcombe’s evidence is that IGas has not done enough so it is not unreasonable to examine where this requirement is set out.

Mr Cannock asked whether Dr Balcombe looked at Environment Agency guidance on onshore oil and gas. Dr Balcombe says he looked at UKOOG guidance and the application. He says he assessed the emissions levels, which were surprisingly high and had not been mitigated.

Mr Cannock says the Environment Agency and the Mineral Planning Authority considered IGas has provided enough information on flaring. Dr Balcombe says he can’t answer that question. Mr Cannock says the EA concluded that the information was adequate and that flaring was best available technique.

Proposed mitigation techniques

Giles Cannock, for IGas, refers to gas capture for use in the gas main or for generating electricity. Mr Cannock mentions a range of options to mitigate emissions. He says industry guidelines say flaring is the preferred option at exploration. Dr Balcombe says it may be practicable to use the gas during exploration:

“You’re saying that flaring is always the preferred option but that is not how I read it”

Mr Cannock asked Dr Balcombe whether he was qualified to design a methane capture scheme. Dr Balcombe said he was not.

Dr Balcombe says he does not see enough consideration of other mitigation techniques. Mr Cannock asks what could be done to mitigate emissions. He says IGas argues that capturing the gas is not technically feasible.

On the extended well test, Mr Cannock asked whether Dr Balcombe had carried out an extended well test. No Dr Balcombe says. Mr Cannock asks whether a wild cat well had captured gas during a well. Dr Balcombe says it may not always be practicable to do it but it must be feasible or it would not be referred to in best available technique guidance. He concedes he is not aware of gas capture during a 14-day well test.

Carbon footprints

Dr Balcombe confirms that liquified natural gas would probably have a higher carbon footprint than domestic shale gas.

Using the Ellesmere Port gas to generate electricity or in the gas grid would displace other gas, Mr Cannock suggests. Dr Balcombe agrees.

4.05pm Inquiry resumes

3.50pm Break

The inquiry resumes at 4.05pm.

3.15pm: Cross-examination of Dr Paul Balcombe

Reasons for refusal

Giles Cannock, for IGas, asks Dr for Paul Balcombe,the climate change for Cheshire West and Chester Council about the reasons given for refusing the planning application in January 2018.

Mr Cannock says Dr Balcombe raised concerns about air quality, traffic, hydraulic fracturing and waste water treatment but they were not given as reasons for refusal. They are irrelevant to the inquiry, Mr Cannock says.

Mr Cannock says the council refused the application because the scheme failed to mitigates the effects on climate change. Dr Balcombe says the climate effects of the scheme are non-negligible.

Dr Balcombe rejects the suggestion that the council is arguing that development is not inappropriate on the site with added mitigation. Mr Cannock says IGas complies with the local plan if there is adequate mitigation and the application should be approved.

Mr Cannock asks Dr Balcombe whether he know why the planning committee refused permission. Dr Balcombe says he interpreted the rationale for refusal might be and provided evidence for them. He says he looked into any climate change impacts of the flow test and any subsequent production.

Exploration versus production

Mr Cannock puts it to Dr Balcombe that potential production effects should not be taken into account at the exploration phase. Dr Balcombe agrees. Mr Cannock says production may not take place and would be subject to a separate application.

The inquiry is not concerned with any future hypothetical application for production, Mr Cannock puts it to Dr Balcombe. He agrees.

2.17pm: Council evidence – Dr Paul Balcombe on climate change

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Dr Paul Balcombe. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Robert Griffiths for Cheshire West and Chester Council, introduces his first climate change witness, Dr Paul Balcombe, a Research Fellow at the Sustainable Gas Institute (SGI), Department of Chemical Engineering, Imperial College, London.

Dr Balcombe tells the inquiry that his evidence focusses on the collection of natural gas emissions from the well during the flow test.

IGas plans “not best practice”

He says he does not believe that IGas decision to flare gas from the well during the flow test is best practice. He says other options have not been given proper consideration.

Dr Balcombe says he was surprised at the volume of emissions and that there had not been more effort in collecting them. He says he understands the cost of collecting emissions need to be taken into account.

He says he calculated methane and carbon dioxide emissions from flaring the gas using the potential flow rate and the duration of the flow tests. This was information available from IGas documents and evidence, he says.

When we are talking about kilo tonnes of C02 equivalent, they are substantial quantities, Dr Balcombe says.

“We have not seen a total greenhouse gas emissions. I am concerned about the lack of consideration.”

He says the IGas flow test would amount to 1.6% of annual industrial emissions in Cheshire West and Chester in 2016. It is a significant figure, he says.

The best option is to collect the gas and use it for a purpose. The second best is to flare the gas and the worst option is to vent it, Dr Balcombe says.

In this situation, Dr Balcombe says, it is technically feasible to collect the gas and it should be considered.

He says IGas argued that the collection of natural gas was not feasible. That is not wholly correct, Dr Balcombe says.

“More attention should be given to collecting gas”

Information from the 14-day drill stem test could be used to inform collection of gas during the 60-day extended well test.

“Given the size of the emissions, more attention should be given to collecting the gas, rather than using the high efficiency flare.”

Dr Balcombe says there is just one paragraph in the evidence on this issue.

He says only very small quantities of methane need to be emitted for there to be a serious climate impact. The shrouded flare, to be used during the drill stem test, is 65% efficient so 35% of the methane is emitted into the atmosphere, rather than burned.

Over 12 years, this methane is 120 times more powerful in climate warming terms than carbon dioxide, he says. Over a 100-year-period, methane is 35 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

Methane emitted to the atmosphere is eventually converted into carbon dioxide which lasts for thousands of years. 1kg of methane converts into about 2.2kg of carbon dioxide.

“Emissions from the flow tests are significant. They should not be swept under the carpet.”

Dr Balcombe says he was surprised by the quantity of emissions from the flow test.

“They were certainly larger than I expected.”

IGas could feed the gas into the grid or use it to generate electricity, Dr Balcombe says.

Asked to respond to the IGas argument that the emissions are the inevitable consequence of exploration, Dr Balcombe says:

“I understand the trade off between emissions and cost. Given these high emissions, it warrants more money spent on it.”

“IGas underestimated social cost of emissions”

Dr Balcombe says IGas has underestimated the social cost of the emissions. This is the effect of climate change on people, he says.

“Decision-makers should take into account the social cost of emissions because climate change is the most important issue of our time.”

Asked to respond to the argument that the emissions from the IGas test would be a “drop in the ocean”, Dr Balcombe says all drops in the ocean mount up.

The inspector, Brian  Cook, suggests the questioning is becoming a philosophical debate on climate change. Mr Griffiths, for the council, says it is important not to make assumptions about evidence.

Role of UK shale gas on decarbonisation

Dr Balcombe says it should not be assumed that domestic shale gas developments would not materially assist the UK’s decarbonisation. The argument by supporters of shale argue that UK shale gas would help to phase out coal and reduce LNG imports.

Dr Balcombe says coal has largely been replaced. He says there is an argument to offset imported LNG. Current understanding is that emissions from the supply of domestically produced gas should have a lower carbon footprint of imported LNG, he says.

On the IGas proposal, there is potential to mitigate more emissions than planned by capturing and using the gas, particularly for the extended well test.

“There is an increasing requirement on industry and citizens to assess and reduce their emissions.

“It is an obligation on industry to lead to mitigate more and more. I see it elsewhere in the natural gas industry in the UK across the supply chain but I don’t see it here.”

Every effort is needed to eliminate emissions, Dr Balcombe says.

2.15pm: Inquiry resumes


1.16pm: Break for lunch

The inquiry resumes at 2.15pm


1.13pm: Response from IGas

Giles Cannock says the proposed operations were set out in the waste management plan. Not in the planning document, Ms Dehon replied.

Mr Cannock says the company is not permitted to use hydrofluoric acid.

He adds that the company will discuss the description of the application.


12.45pm: Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton opening statement

Estelle Dehon, for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton (FFEP&U) says the site, 320m from local residences and 50m from local businesses is not sustainable development.

She says it is in breach of several local planning policies.

Ms Dehon says the two wards closest to the proposed shale gas site – Rossmore and Ellesmere Port Town – are ranked amongst the 10% most deprived in the UK. Local people are more vulnerable to the negative impacts of the proposed development. IGas has not considered these impacts, she says.

The operation

Ms Dehon accepts that IGas is not proposing to frack. But she says the company has intended to use both an acid wash and acid squeeze. This would involve of up to 95m3 of acid – either hydrochloric or the more toxic hydrofluoric acid.

The environmental permit allows acid stimulation of shale using matrix acidisation – “essentially acid fracking’s ugly little sibling”. The application is for acid stimulation and the evidence has addressed this, Ms Dehon says.

She says the description of the planning application are “hopelessly vague”.

“The failure to to specify the proposed extraciton method is very troubling.”

It means, Ms Dehon says, that although IGas says it will not intend acid stimulation but this would be permitted. The environmental permit does not permit fracking but it does not prevent acid squeeze.

The use of the word “deminimis” means only that the acid will be used near the wellbore, Ms Dehon says.

Community concern

Ms Dehon says the original planning permission for drilling at Ellesmere Port was for coalbed methane.

But later, IGas told the council the ultimate target for the well would be into the Bowland Shale.

IGas was crystal clear with the Environment Agency that it would drill through and beyond the coal measures.

But in July 2014 it told the community

“We will be drilling an exploratory well at the Ellesmere Port site. The primary objective of this well is to identify the resource potential including coal bed methane in the underlying rock formations”

A brochure had not one word about shale gas, Ms Dehon says.

“IGas told the community it was exploring for coal bed methane when in actuality the primary objective of the well was to drill to explore for shale gas

“That is why the community is very concerned that this planning permission properly describe the process that IGas is telling the council and the inspector how that it wishes to undertake”

Ms Dehon says the short exploration term does not avoid the impacts explained by witness. It is IGas relies on the benefits of production to make its case, she says.

Policy

Ms Dehon says FFEP&U accepts there is national government support for shale gas exploration. The group does not challenge this policy support.

“But that does not mean that shale gas exploration must be permitted in the wrong location, so close to residences and neighbouring businesses, in a vulnerable area and in a cul-de-sac that makes emergency response very difficult. The policies supporting shale gas do not mean that every application for shale gas exploration does through on the nod.”

IGas has not “bothered even to calculate the anticipated greenhouse gas emissions. It seeks only to sidestep the climate change issue”, Ms Dehon says.

But the climate change impact cannot be sidestepped, she says.

“The Secretary of State in the recent Talk Fracking challenge told the High Court that the appropriate place for the consideration of evidence of the impact of shale gas development on climate change and the environment is in local planning decisions”.

IGas has not called a climate change expert or calculated the emissions of the proposal. “That is entirely the wrong approach”, Ms Dehon says.

IGas assumes that the permit is the “great panacea”. But that is wrong in the group’s opinion.

“The EA specifically said it was not going to deal with public health impacts, particularly those arising from social harm and stress. Those are issues for you, sir.”

The EA made its assessment based on the impact on people living 500m+ away. That has changed, Ms Dehon says. The way conditions have changed on the ground are planning issues for the inquiry to deal with.

If the permit allows for matrix acidisation, then unless the description is changed or a condition is added, that is what you have to address.

“The local community has said a resounding no to the proposed development. The opposition is not ill-informed, or ignorant or knee-jerk, as some have attempted to characterise it.

“FFEP&U’s experts witnesses will show that the proposed development is simply in the wrong place and, in light of its adverse impacts, is not acceptable in planning terms.”


12 noon: Council opening statement

Robert Griffiths, for Cheshire West and Chester Council, begins his opening statement by referring to evidence for IGas that shale gas development is compatible with climate change.

This IGas evidence does not explain how the Ellesmere Port well test plan would be a climate change mitigation, Mr Griffiths says.

We say it is important to establish the range of emissions that are compatible with meeting the Paris Agreement.

Shale gas development should not be regarded as a climate change mitigation, Mr Griffiths says. Parliamentary committees and reports have already pointed this out, he adds.

There is no consensus on unconventional gas production in the UK. This is a paradox, he says, in a representative democracy.

“We are not aware that there is different science across the UK.

“If Chester had become part of Wales, the outcome of this inquiry would be very different.

For the UK to operate on inconsistent principles in different parts of the country is bordering on the absurd. The government of the UK should adopt a scientifically consistent approach to the future of our planet.

Mr Griffiths says the emissions from the well test are not small, as IGas claims.

Recent events, including the IPCC report in October 2018, should be taken into account, Mr Griffiths says.

The Paris Agreement cannot lawfully be ignored by the Secretary of State nor the inspector, Mr Griffiths adds.

Mr Griffiths says:

Climate change is a serious threat to society and ecosystems.

We take the view that reliance on environmental permits by IGas is no answer for this inquiry. The appellant’s case is that the Environment Agency did not object. The EA is not a planning authority and the permit is just licence to operate, not a planning permission.

It is necessary to identify those areas of responsibility for the planning authority. The failure to do that results in unlawful decision making.

Key part of the case

Mr Griffiths says the permission was refused because the application did not mitigate or adapt to the effects of climate change or make best use of renewable energy, against the requirements of the local plan.

The council is calling two witnesses on climate change: John Broderick, of the Tyndall Centre and . Paul Balcombe of Imperial College. Dr Broderick says IGas has failed to justify that the proposal meets with the Cheshire local plan.

Dr Balcombe says the tests would generate 1.6% of Cheshire West’s industrial emissions. He will argue that IGas is not using best practice and the UK shale gas industry is not complementary to UK climate efforts, Mr Griffiths says.

It is vital that any fossil fuel exploration should be accompanied by

“Industrial leadership is what is lacking here. The oil and gas industry needs to get its act together and not put responsibility on local authorities.”

Mr Griffiths adds:

“The appellant has misunderstood the volumes of emissions. It has wrongly characterised the emissions as low. This was an assumption that the Committee on Climate Change has said should not be given.

“This development has not taken the climate change reason for refusal seriously.”

IGas cannot be bothered to mitigate the emissions because it would be too costly to do so.”

The intuitive judgement of the councillors has been corroborated by two distinguished scientists, Mr Griffiths. The perception of government policy may be that the Secretary of State will just flag it through. That is reckless, Mr Griffiths says. Scientific fact can outweigh outdated government policy.

Good mitigation should be at the heart of all shale gas schemes, Mr Griffiths says. This should not be ignored because of cost or expediency.

Statement on conflict of interest -Inspector’s employment in RPS

Mr Griffiths says two witnesses used by IGas work or did work, for the environmental consultancy, RPS, the same company that employed the inspector for three years.

As a matter of law, the conflict of interest is not limited to actual bias but extends to a perception of bias. It appears that the inspector does not have any director or financial interest in RPS. But the conflict of interest can be a mindset for the way the decision-maker comes to a conclusion. The pre-inquiry note points to a pre-disposition to accept the appellants case and the inspector appears to want to avoid addressing some issues, Mr Griffiths says. He adds:

“There does remain some doubt about the inspector’s position. We are confident that doubt can be removed when we come to share the evidence as the inquiry gets going and independently grapples with the issues.

“We do not make any submission that the inspector should recuse himself from the inquiry.”

The inspector, Brian Cook, says Mr Griffith’s statement on impartiality sounds like “having your cake and eating it”. He says most inquiries employ someone who has worked for RPS.

“If I recused myself from inquiries where someone has worked for RPS I might as well resign”

Mr Cook says he did not buy shares in RPS and had no interest in the company.

Giles Cannock, for IGas, says he does not call for the inspector to recuse himself from the inquiry. We can be clear for the record that there is no point being taken, Mr Cannock says. He asks the council to confirm that any concerns on impartiality can be addressed by calling of evidence.

Robert Griffiths says any doubts about impartiality can be addressed when the evidence is heard.

Mr Cook says he will not recuse himself.

“I am astonished that you would think that I had predetermined issues.”


11.39am: Discussion on pre-inquiry note

Robert Griffiths, for Cheshire West and Chester Council, refers to a pre-inquiry note distributed by the inspector.

He says the inquiry raises important issues.

He says the hearing must take into account national and local policy guidance but also issues relevant to the public interest.

The inspector must take into account evidence submitted at the inquiry on policy and scientific facts, Mr Griffiths says. This includes the fact that shale gas development is harmful to climate change.

Mr Griffiths says the council was surprised that the inspector did not expect to spend time on these issues.

“We have to say at the outset that this would not be a proper approach.”

It is the council’s case that the reduction of global warming should be given utmost weight.

“These are issues that cannot be sidestepped or avoid. They are at the heart of this case.”

Mr Griffiths says there is an important distinction between a definition of an issue and determination of an issue. Determining an issue in advance, there is a risk of unlawful pre-determination.

“It looks as if a decision-maker has already made up his mind before hearing the evidence.”

The inspector’s note said it was not clear how evidence by Dr Broderick for the council could e accommodated.

Brian Cook, the inspector, says he is “slightly alarmed” that it is suggested that he had pre-judged the issue. Mr Cook says:

“My role is to ensure the efficient running of this inquiry in everyone’s interests.

“The purpose of my pre-inquiry note was not preclude you from making your points.

If I am to consider a criticism of government policy I need to be clear why you have asked me to take this into account.”

Mr Griffiths says statements on the relevance of evidence before hearing it is a pre-determination. He says to the inspector:

“Your pre-inquiry note casts doubt on your willingness to consider the evidence of two expert witnesses on climate change.”

Broad propositional statements can be misinterpreted, he says.

The council does not accept that the inspector’s note on accepting national policy. Mr Griffiths says:

“We do not accept that you cannot look at those policies with an open mind, considering when they were made, compatibility with other policies and a treaty signed by the government.”

They have the potential to raise issues of major legal significance, Mr Griffiths says.


11.38am: Inquiry resumes

Brian Cook, the inspector, explains that he shook the hand of a member of the IGas team who he had previously worked with.


11.20am: Break

The inquiry resumes at 11.35am.


10.43am: IGas opening case

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Giles Cannock, for IGas, presents his opening case.

He says the company submitted an application to Cheshire West and Chester Council to test its Ellesmere Port well. The application was refused and the company has no choice but to appeal, he says.

The well was drilled in 2014, Mr Cannock, says, following planning permission granted in 2010. He says the well was drilled in accordance with the conditions of the permission.

Drilling permisison

Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton are unhappy about the way the well was drilled, he says. (The company had said it was exploring for coalbed methane but drilled about 900m deeper into the Bowland shale.

The council attended during the drilling and did not object, Mr Cannock says. The council confirmed the conditions were met and there were no complaints, Mr Cannock adds.

Site

The site is in an industrial area, called Portside, Mr Cannock says. The application is a temporary operation in an industrial area, he says. Claims of unacceptable landscape impacts are difficult to countenance, he says. This is not an Environmental Impact Assessment development, he says.

Operation

Mr Cannock says there will be no additional drilling, hydraulic fracturing or matrix acidisation. The development proposes to flow test the well.

Well test equipment will be mobilised, he says, including a workover rig. This is expected to take seven days.

A 14-day drill stem test is standard industry operation. Gas released from the well will be diverted to a flare, Mr Cannock says.

A dilute acid solution is pumped into the well. This is also standard oilfield practice and similar to that used in water wells. It is known as an acid wash or acid squeeze. It is not matrix acidisation. It is considered deminimis by the Environment Agency. Gas would be diverted to a shrouded flare.

If the DST is successful, the workover rig and other equipment will be removed. A 60-day extended well test would then take place. Once the flow rates have stabilised, the shrouded flare will be replaced by an enclosed flare.

After the extended well test, the equipment would be removed over seven days.

Planning policy

Mr Cannock says the National Planning Policy Framework requires decisionmakers to consider whether the proposal is a suitable use of land.

Regulations controlled by the regulators should not be revisited and left to other agencies, Mr Cannock says. These regulators include the Environment Agency (EA), Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The HSE is responsible for well design, well integrity. The EA is responsible for waste management.

The scope of the planning system is fundamentally important to the decision of this appeal. The council and campaign group have produced evidence that is dealt with by other regulators and are not relevant to the inquiry, Mr Cannock says.

Planning application

Mr Cannock says the original planning application had been recommended for approval. Despite this, the council’s planning committee refused permission. The grounds given were that it failed to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Mr Cannock says there is no conflict with the national or all but one element of local planning policy. There is a lot of common ground with the council, Mr Cannock says.

Main issue: emissions

Mr Cannock says the key issue is the emissions of gas burned in the flare during the flow test.

The proposal complies with existing national policies, which set out the importance of onshore oil and gas supplies.

The written ministerial statement of May 2018 states the role of gas to meet the UK’s climate commitments, Mr Cannock says. All scenarios include a demand for gas, he says. The UK could be importing 70% of gas by 2030. Domestic gas resources should be used to a maximum where it is economically efficient and the environmental impacts are regulated.

The UK has gold standard regulations, to ensure that shale gas can be extracted safely, Mr Cannock says. Shale gas is of national importance and mineral planning authorities should give great weight to the benefits of domestically-produced gas.

It is not the role for the inquiry to debate national policy but for you to apply it, Mr Cannock says. He adds:

Emissions left after mitigation are the inevitable impacts of exploration and they must be deemed acceptable because of the government’s strong support for the industry.

Mr Cannock says evidence from the council on climate change is outside the scope of the inquiry and is inconsistent with the authority’s air quality evidence.

This suggests the refusal was flawed, Mr Cannock says. The mitigation of emissions are not a matter for the local authority because they were considered by the Environment Agency and considered to be best available technique.

The council did not object or request further details on the emissions issue. It is irrational to refuse permission because councillors wanted to see information they had never asked for, Mr Cannock says.

IGas disagrees that there is an acceptable mitigation scheme – capture of the gas – as proposed by the council, Mr Cannock says. We deny that a condition on this mitigation meets planning policy, Mr Cannock adds.

Mr Cannock says some Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton witnesses believe the scheme will involve hydraulic fracturing. It is not fracking, Mr Cannock says, and the operation is controlled by the permit. The use of acid is to restore natural permeability.

Mr Cannock says:

IGas does not consider that to be stimulation. It is not matrix acidisation because it is not targetting the rock formation. Matrix acidisation is prohibited by the permit. The inquiry does not need to waste time on this issue.

The Frack Free Ellesmere Port and UPton concerns over fracturing and matrix acidisations could be met by conditions, Mr Cannock says.

The company is prepared to discuss an amendment to the description of the application to allay concerns.

Neither Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton nor IGas want matrix acidisation.

When the application is understood it should be approved with conditions, Mr CAnnock says.


10.36am: Evidence documents

Giles Cannock, for IGas, complains that the company received a box of core documents from Cheshire West and Chester Council on Thursday last week.

The IGas team had not been able to go through the documents, Mr Cannock says. He asks the inspector not to accept this evidence. If it is to be accepted then the IGas team needs more time to consider it, he says.

The inspector, Brian Cook, says he has not seen the documents either. He says the documents are the appendices to the proofs of evidence. He adds he has asked for them to be printed out and produced to the inquiry.

Robert Griffiths, for the council, says the documents are all referred to in the evidence submitted already.

Mr Cook says the inquiry will “play it by ear”.


10.32am: Key issues

Brian Cook sets out the key issues for the inquiry to decide:

  1. Does the application contribute to sustainable development?
  2. Is the climate change impact acceptable and does the proposal adapt to and mitigate climate change?
  3. Would the proposed development have an unacceptable effect on:
  • human health and wellbeing
  • landscape and residential amenity
  • noise, air, water, highways
  • biodiversity

10.24am: Update on plans

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Giles Cannock, for IGas, says a letter dated yesterday refers to a revised set of alternative plans.

IGas plans submitted at the time of the application are acceptable and it is happy to rely on them, he says.

Mr Cannock says the Health and Safety Executive has concerns about the proximity of the site to a neighbouring explosives facility.

This could be resolved by moving habitable buildings, including two tool stores, on the site outside the zone of concern, he says. These changes are set out in alternative plans to the inquiry, Mr Cannock says. This is a modest proposed change, he adds.

Robert Griffiths, for the council, and Estelle Dehon, for the Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton, say they don’t want to make a response.


10am: Inquiry opens

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Inquiry inspector, Brian Cook, opens the inquiry on 15 January 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

The planning inspector, Brian Cook, opens the inquiry.

Mr Cook introduces the barristers: Giles Cannock (IGas), Robert Griffiths QC (CWAC) and Estelle Dehon (FFEPU).

He says local MPs, councillors and members of the public will address the inquiry on Friday morning, with five minutes each. A local councillor, Matt Bryan, will be speaking today.

The inquiry will sit from 9.30am-5pm Tuesday-Thursday and from 9.30am-1pm on Friday.

Mr Cook says IGas will be making an application for costs against Cheshire West and Chester Council.

He confirms he has visited the IGas site. He will also make an accompanied site visit during the inquiry.


9.35am: Speeches outside Chester Town Hall

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The former Green Party leader, Nathalie Bennett, says the new climate change fight was against fossil gas. She said:

“Gas is a fossil fuel. It is a climate generator. Your fight here is crucial”

Another speaker, Miranda Cox, a town councillor from Kirkham in Lancashire, says the fight is against climate damage and to save local democracy and communities.

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8.53am: Preparations outside Chester Town Hall

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Ellesmere Port Inquiry at Chester Town Hall, 15 January 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop


Reporting at this inquiry has been made possible by donations from individual DrillOrDrop readers

Categories: Regulation

27 replies »

      • Incidentally this announcement was interesting:

        (Apologies for the cut and paste)

        “The planning inspector, Brian Cook, opens the inquiry.
        Mr Cook introduces the barristers: Giles Cannock (IGas), Roger Griffiths QC (CWAC) and Estelle Dehon (FFEPU).
        He says local MPs, councillors and members of the public will address the inquiry on Friday morning, with five minutes each.”

        Five minute each? Really? That is far too short for a case to be put, a barrister would take more than five minutes just to shuffle their papers!

        • 5 mins each is for the public not the Barristers. I recall asking you a long time back if you had been to a PI before PhilC? I guess not.

          5 minutes is pretty standard. It is to prevent the Inspector having to hear the same emotional nonsense and irrelevant (to the inquiry) points over and over…..

          • That has been my experience Paul, but I have been surprised some Inspectors seem to ignore that and end up with a load of repetition of irrelevant points.

            Perhaps this one is aware IGAS are going for costs?

          • I have as a matter of fact Paul, sorry to burst your attempt at a by now typical weaponised narrative bubble smoke screen.

            In this country, one was a planning consultation for flood defences to prevent peoples houses being damaged by flood water and hence had popular support.

            The other was a bypass around a northern city which required land take and environmental studies, that got moved to protect local dew ponds and water habitats, an environmental requirement.

            I also acted as support to a couple of other public inquiries here and abroad, but acted mainly as researcher and report collater.

            The public comments were under the auspices of their own consultant i recall and there was not such a short time limit, my comment re the barrister was more to highlight the difference in emphasis between the public and the barristers.

            Public concern is not at all what your derog a tory remarks would indicate at all, in many ways the public were better briefed and knowledgeable than the poorly prepared barristers, as previous PI’s have revealed in the fracking PI’s in UK recently.

            Sorry old thing, wrong again…..sad that you have such a miserable opinion of the public, i hope they take note and treat the fossil fuel barristers accordingly, because i doubt the operators will dare show their faces in public.

            Shame.

            • So? But unless that is allowed a public forum, it can and has been ignored as you very well know. However it is very important that the public have their say live at the time, not squeezed into five minutes on the last day which is when everyone is thinking about going home, or else it descends into an undemocratic farce doesnt it.

              That still doesn’t excuse your comments regarding the public and the public inquiries to date on fracking and its associated avoidances of the word prove that to be totally wrong.

              Look at this report from David Kestevens Fracking Farmhouse.

              Oops! Sorry, you will have to avert your eyes from jelly and Oscar, we dont want to give you a flashback over that weird flat cat, fat cat, frack hat conversation do we?

              Shame.

  1. Nature Human Behaviour:

    “this result is perverse but consistent with previous research on the psychology of extremism”, Phil Fernbach, of the University of Colorado, who led the study, said. “Extreme views often stem from people feeling they understand complex topics better than they do.”

    The study also found that those with a poor understanding would probably stay that way. ” Our findings suggest that changing peoples’ minds first requires them to appreciate what they don’t know”.

    Well, we knew that didn’t we, and shown quite clearly via the anti fracking posters.

    But good to get it confirmed!

  2. Oh Martin , please can you explain what your comment has to do with proceedings in Chester today , I thought it was about Igas site at Ellesmere Port not some remote study from USA besides , by the end of the week all this could be irrelevant JC4PM then it will be “Stranded Assets ” time.

  3. I say green energy won´t do.
    Bring back the world population, use birthcontrol, to max. 1 bn people, maybe that shall save the climate.

    • So, Jono, close the oil refinery and then there would be no need for the houses that some antis have claimed will be in danger, when built, close to the IGAS site. Add the car factory to that as well due to it’s impact upon climate change and a few antis can watch the dust blowing through the derelict area in the not too distant future. Hmmm.

    • Jono

      The picture shows three bolts, but we cannot clearly see the remaining 2 bolt holes of the 8 bolt flange. So I suspect there are 4 bolts in that flange, not three. The bolts are clearly in good condition.

      The connection is to a bowser ( tank ) which I suspect is at atmospheric pressure. Given the connector, four bolts in the flange would give adequate strength and integrity to the joint for that pressure regime.

      That, of course if there were 4 bolts.

      The connector had a bit of tape round the connector handle, which is a good way of ensuring someone does not inadvertently cause disconnection if they caught the lever by mistake. The tape is not holding on the pipe connection as noted above, the mechanics of the connection are doing that.

      I suspect that whoever wrote the text to the picture does not know much about the subject, but always happy to learn more.

      Plus, we do not know what fluid is in the tank, it could be water?
      The pipework connected is not chicksan ( so it’s not subject to high pressure )

      So, it’s a bit early to diss the company based on the picture. Unless anyone knows a bit more?

      • 4 bolts, low pressure, none toxic, probably water or gel, tape is not an integral part of the connection, only to prevent accidental disconnection. Agree fully Hewes62.

      • Jono

        I would ask those who annotated the picture… what is totally unacceptable in the picture and why?

        I would prefer 8 bolts in an 8 bolt flange, especially as there is a blue valve in there ( it seems ) which deserves 4 bolts on its own in my opinion.

        The other point is … although the text says this is connected to the ‘ pipe work for the drill’, how do we know it is in service?

        We would need to go ask about it all.

        Maybe if there truly were just three rusty bolts in there, all of varying sizes with rusty flanges, with visible leakage, and no protection on the coupler we should be more worried?

        • Pipe work to “the drill”? pretty meaningless. To the mud tanks possibly? To the top drive / kelly not possible due to pressure rating. To the wash down guns – possible. To the choke / kill not possible. To the mud pumps – unlikely. To the waste pit or vaccum truck probable.

  4. “Dr Balcombe confirms that liquified natural gas would probably have a higher carbon footprint than domestic shale gas.

    Using the Ellesmere Port gas to generate electricity or in the gas grid would displace other gas, Mr Cannock suggests. Dr Balcombe agrees.”

    The climate expert for the Council……excellent and correct of course.

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