Regulation

Live news updates: Day 2 of IGas Ellesmere Port 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

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

Today is expected to hear from more witnesses for Cheshire West and Chester Council, which opposed plans the scheme in January 2018.

The council said the scheme failed to mitigate the effects on climate change.

The hearing in Chester is expected to last six or seven days. It will also hear from representatives of IGas, 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, news updates from Day 1 and link to inquiry page on DrillOrDrop


Key points

  • Residents don’t trust IGas, which leads to stress and anxiety – local councillor
  • Gas production is a deliberate act of moving carbon from below the ground to above the ground where it has a damaging effect on the climate – council expert
  • Hydrocarbon production should not be considered climate change mitigation – council expert
  • Shale gas has no benefit in displacing coal and its role as a bridge fuel depends on the timescale – council expert
  • The IGas scheme does not comply with the Paris Agreement on climate change – council expert
  • UK carbon budgets are too high for the commitments made in the Paris Agreement and our policy is not compatible with achieving the results” – council expert
  • “We should be planning for an almost decarbonised energy system within the next two decades” – council expert
  • “The impact of the IGas scheme in climate change terms is significant, cannot be underestimated and in the planning balance the councillors were justified in refusing the application” – council planning witness
  • “shale gas exploration should not be an exercise which is undertaken at any environmental cost” – council planning witness
  • In the current climate, I would give very significant weight to the views of local people” – council planning witness

5.30pm: Inquiry closes for the day

The inquiry resumes at 9.30am on Thursday 16 January 2019.


5pm: Cross-examination of Conor Vallelly, council planning witness

Giles Cannock, barrister for IGas, begins to cross-examine Conor Vallelly, the council’s planning witness.

Mr Vallelly says he has not promoted an oil or gas application or a environmental permit application.

Asked whether he had spoken to members of the planning committee about why they refused consent, Mr Vallelly says no. It is not a common convention or something he has come across, he says.

Reasons for refusal

Mr Cannock says IGas asked for clarification on the reasons for refusal. He says the author of council’s statement of case appeared not to understand the reasons for refusal. Mr Vallelly says he does not agree with that.

Mr Cannock says the council considered the issue of sterilisation of land as a reason for refusal. Mr Vallelly says that is not part of his case.

Mr Cannock put it to Mr Vallelly that the council statement of case suggests members considered hydraulic fracturing formed part of the exploratory and production phases at Ellesmere Port and they took that into account. Mr Vallelly says the statement says the members did have the correct information at the planning meeting. Mr Vallelly says he is clear that exploration at Ellesmere Port does not include hydraulic fracturing.

The council issued a supplemental statement of case before the appointment of Dr Broderick and Dr Balcombe, Mr Cannock says. Asked if it supersedes the original, Mr Vallelly says they should be read together.

Mr Cannock says there was other correspondence between IGas and the council on the refusal reason. Mr Vallelly accepts that the key issue is the use of mitigation by IGas when flaring during flow testing.


3.30pm: Evidence from Conor Vallelly, council planning witness

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Conor Vallelly giving evidence to the IGas inquiry, 16 January 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Mr Vallely, is an associate planner at the consultancy GVA. He began working for Cheshire West and Chester Council in October 2018.

Council policy on sustainability

Mr Vallelly says in his evidence:

“It is my opinion that the explanation to the policy is an important consideration as it makes clear the Council’s commitment to the national targets in relation to energy derived from renewable sources and the reduction of GHG.

“The importance to be attached to these considerations has, in my view, increased significantly since the Local Plan was adopted in January 2015. There are 2 key points in relation to the above, the first of which is that the Local Plan confirms that climate change and the reduction of GHG emissions is a very important issue to the Council.

“It could be argued that if the local plan was in the process of being re-written today there would be an even greater emphasis on this given the targets set out in the Paris Agreement and the sobering content of the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5oC published on the 6 October 2018.

“The second point is that paragraph 8.67 of the Local Plan confirms the Council’s intention that it wishes to manage any adverse impacts that may be associated with the exploration, appraisal and production phases of alternative hydrocarbon energy fuels.

“To my mind that must mean that all adverse impacts should be managed including both unintentional and any process driven GHG emissions released from the production phase. I conclude that there is a very clear policy basis on which the Council and its members would expect to understand in a meaningful way, how GHG emissions can be properly mitigated for as part of the appeal proposals.”

Mr Vallelly says he defines mitigation as measures that, if applied could make an unacceptable scheme acceptable.

Robert Griffiths, barrister for the council, asks Mr Vallelly if he accepts the council’s decision to refuse permission. Mr Vallelly says he does support the decision.

“I came to the conclusion that the absence of information on mitigation was the reason for refusal and take the democratic decision to refuse. I do not see that as unreasonable. In the light of the many objections, they took their independent, arms-length view.”

Mr Vallelly says Cheshire’s supplementary planning document said individual applications would be considered on their own merits and would not take account of future hypothetical activities for which permission has not yet been sought. They would assessed against the effects of the exploration activity, including cumulative impacts.

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Conor Vallelly giving evidence to the IGas inquiry, 16 January 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Compatibility with other council evidence

IGas has argued that some of the council witness evidence is incompatible.

Mr Vallelly says he is a planner and not a scientist. He has written his evidence on the basis of his professional judgement, as have other council witnesses.

Climate change

Mr Vallelly says the scientific evidence on climate change before the inquiry is of public benefit. He acknowledges that the council planning committee did not have access to this information.

But the council report and minutes did refer to the Paris Agreement and the UK’s international climate commitments, Mr Vallelley says. He accepts that this issue was in the minds of the councillors.

Mr Vallelly says he accepts that government policy supports onshore oil and gas development. But he adds:

“It is my opinion however that the content of the 2016 Onshore Petroleum report by the CCC [Committee on Climate Change] and the most recent publication from the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] provides a compelling case in the need for a ground shift in both the approach to future global energy supply and in ensuring that all stages of the processes to recover unconventional hydrocarbons utilise the strictest possible measures to minimise any impacts on climate change. This would be in line with the Precautionary Principle.”

He adds that it would be reasonable for information on emissions mitigation to have been provided to the Council.

“In the absence of this information and on the balance of the information I believe that there is a conflict with the Cheshire West and Chester Council Local Plan Policy STRAT 1 as insufficient information has been provided to explain how this particular element of the proposals will help to mitigate the effects of climate change.

“I conclude that in terms of assessing the appeal proposals in planning terms it would be irrational to simply disregard the need for stringent mitigation of potential GHG emissions at the exploration stage simply because these were judged to be small scale in the context of the potential untapped shale gas resource.”

The effects of the appeal scheme, releasing methane and carbon dioxide that could be captured, are very serious, Mr Vallelly adds.

He says the IGas scheme could be considered to comply with local planning policy. But he says the scheme undermines the objective of not adding to greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr Vallelly says

“In my professional opinion, the impact of the scheme in climate change terms is significant, cannot be underestimated and in the planning balance the councillors were justified in refusing the application.”

Local opinion

Mr Vallelly says he understands the level of opposition to the scheme and that public opinion is a material consideration. Mr Griffiths, for the council, asks what weight should be given to local public opinion on shale gas exploration.

Mr Vallelly replies:

“In the current climate, I would give very significant weight to the views of local people. That is not to say that the inspector should only consider these views but they should be given very serious consideration in determining this planning application.

“The force of those objections will have been in the mind of committee members when making their decision.”

Mr Vallelly says the view of MPs should be given equal weight to members of the public. But he says they represent hundreds of thousands of people and an MP’s opinion should be given weight by the inquiry.

The fact that three MPs are to give evidence to the inquiry is indicative of the importance of the scheme, sensitivity,and the emotion caused by it, Mr Vallelly says.

Economic benefit

Asked whether the social costs or economic benefits should be considered, Mr Vallelly says it is material to the inquiry.

“Shale gas development should not be undertaken at any environmental cost”

Mr Vallelly tells the inquiry:

“On reviewing the wider body of evidence,  it is clear that appropriate mitigation at all stages of unconventional hydrocarbon exploration and extraction is essential to reduce the impacts of potential GHG release.

“There are a range of techniques and technologies available which have been brought into use particularly in the US and which are no doubt capable of implementation in the UK.

“Whist I am acutely aware of the content of national policy and guidance on facilitating the sustainable use of minerals, my view is that shale gas exploration should not be an exercise which is undertaken at any environmental cost.”

Advice of council officers

Planning officers at Cheshire West and Chester Council had recommended approval of the test scheme but members of the planning committee voted overwhelmingly to refuse.

Mr Vallelly says he sees no less or greater weight to be applied to this issue. My professional view is to assess all the evidence before the inquiry, he says.

Robert Griffiths, for the council, puts it to Mr Vallelly that the planning officers who recommended approval did not have the benefit of the evidence of Dr Balcombe and Dr Broderick, who had been witnesses to the inquiry. The members did not have any scientific input.

Mr Vallelly says he was not aware that the council had commissioned scientific advice.

Mr Griffiths asks whether the decision-making process is now different because there is scientific guidance. “That is self-evident”, Mr Vallelly replies.

Conditions and disagreement on question to witness

Mr Griffiths asks whether planning permission should be granted if IGas entered into an agreement to key issues. Mr Vallelly says the use of planning conditions would need to be considered at the relevant point of the inquiry. But he adds:

“I think the magnitude of the issues before the inquiry are wider than simply about the technique of the mitigation. They cover wider public issues.”

Brian Cook, the inspector, interrupts the evidence. He says:

“I will decide the application on whether it complies with the development plan. If a condition would prevent it conflicting with the council’s sustainability policy I would be in a position to say that it would accord with the development plan and should be approved unless material considerations outweigh this.”

He asks whether Mr Vallelly believes there are material considerations that outweigh compliance with the development plan.

Before Mr Vallelly can answer, Mr Griffiths says decisions have to be made with regard to the law. He says Mr Vallelly is not a position to answer a question with a legal context. He says:

“There are broader issues, in relations to international obligations, which need to be looked at very carefully.

“This is a highly important case of public interest that may have to be looked at in a different way to some other cases.

“International obligations raise serious issues of law that have to be considered.”

Responding to the issue of whether a condition could resolve objections, Mr Vallelly says:

“it would be improper of me to say it would be impossible”

He says there has been no discussion on the issue between the council and IGas.

Production timing

Asked when production at Ellesmere Port would be likely if well testing went ahead. Mr Vallelly says a planning application for production does not currently exist.

Asked if there were time limits attached to other regulations and permissions, Mr Vallelly says he understands they are unrestricted.


3.11pm: Break

The inquiry resumes at 3.30pm


 

2.44pm: Re-examination of Dr John Broderick, council witness

Robert Griffiths, the barrister for Cheshire West and Chester Council, asks Dr John Broderick, the climate change witness, why the IGas scheme is not climate mitigation. Dr Broderick says it will not reducing the extent of climate change and does not comply with the Paris Agreement.

Asked about the Mackay and Stone report on carbon emissions from shale gas developments, Dr Broderick says the report was useful at the time but is now five years old.

Dr Broderick says there are other technological developments that could provide energy needs without greenhouse gas emissions.

Government policy

Asked about government policy, Dr Broderick says:

“Our carbon budgets are too high for the commitments made in the Paris Agreement and our policy is not compatible with achieving the results.”

He adds that the UK needs to adopt low carbon technology much faster than the government policy allows.

“I think we should be planning for an almost decarbonised energy system within the next two decades.”

Asked why, he said:

“We have left it too late. We have been talking about this for decades and taking marginal steps.

“CO2 has been accumulating in the atmosphere and commits us to further warming. We face an urgent problem because we have used up our safe climate space. We have been emitting large volumes of CO2 from fossil fuel use for 200 years and now we need to be moving away from technologies that lead to the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere. There are technologies that are available to us.”

Mr Griffiths asks when would production take place at Ellesmere Port. Mid 2020s, Dr Broderick replies. He says:

“The mitigation challenge at the point in time would be more severe. We would have less safe climate space to us at that time. We would be moving to an even lower carbon economy.”

Dr Broderick says

“It is less likely that a subsequent application [for production] would be approved.”

The Committee on Climate Change will present advice to the government in March in the light of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2018 report on emissions impacts, Dr Broderick says. He says he expects the CCC to set a net zero carbon target for 2050 and quicker reductions than are being considered now. He says he does not want to prejudge the government’s response.


1.42pm: Cross-examination of Dr John Broderick, council witness

[Apologies for the break in updates 1.40-2.30pm because of connection problems]

Giles Cannock, the barrister for IGas, puts it to Dr John Broderick, a climate change witness for the council,  that decision-makers should not take account of the effects of production for an exploration application because they will be assessed in a separate application.

Dr Broderick accepts that this is a collect reflection of the document.

“I can see how it could be part of a planning system”

Mr Cannock asks when Dr Broderick was appointed by the council. November 2018, says Dr Broderick.

Dr Broderick says he understands the reasoning of the planning committee.

He says he does not know whether the reasoning is consistent with his evidence.

Dr Broderick considers that the impact of production are relevant to the appeal.

He agrees that he concludes that an expansion of shale gas production is not consistent with climate change mitigation. Any fossil source of CO2 has a warming effect on the climate. Temperature stabilisation requires net zero emissions, Dr Broderick says.

Dr Broderick agrees that any increase in emissions from an oil or gas site should be balanced by a reduction in emissions elsewhere. He accepts that he has not identified a source of emissions that should be reduced.

He says there is an imperative not to explore or produce extra oil or gas. The IGas scheme is not compatible with the Paris Agreement, he adds.

You can’t tell me whether these arguments formed part of the reasoning of the planning committee, Mr Cannock asks. No, says Dr Broderick. Robert Griffiths, the barrister for the council, says it is an absurd proposition that IGas is arguing that the inquiry must establish what was in the minds of the committee. Mr Cannock says there are irreconcilable inconsistencies between evidence of the council witnesses. He says he is not suggesting the inquiry needs to establish what was in the minds of the councillors. I am trying to establish what is the case – if any – of this mineral planning authority, Mr Cannock says.

Government policy

Mr Cannock asks whether Dr Broderick accepts whether government policy is based on affordability and security of supply. Dr Broderick accepts that it is, though he says he may not agree with the basis of policy. We can have warmth with a lower security of supply with insulation, he says.

Dr Broderick confirms he believes government energy policy is contentious and is not compatible with the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Mr Cannock asks Dr Broderick whether the inspector should not apply government policy for these reasons.

Dr Broderick says the IGas scheme is not climate change mitigation. The council has rejected the scheme on the basis of climate change and there is an inconsistency in government policy on oil and gas development in relation to climate change, he says. The advice he would give that the rejection of the planning application is reasonable. Mr Cannock says I think the answer is ‘yes’. Dr Broderick

Government statements on shale gas

Mr Cannock reviews government statements on energy and climate change policy starting in 2011. In 2012, the government says gas would play a vital role in energy security, affordability and reducing carbon emissions.

Mr Cannock refers to government documents on shale gas deposits. He says emissions from exploration should be looked at in the context of the UK greenhouse gas inventory.

He also refers to a House of Lords report which concluded that shale gas emissions were equivalent to conventional gas and compatible with climate change commitments. The document says replacing home produced shale gas for LNG would make a positive contribution to climate change. Dr Broderick says that is reasonable for central estimates but does not capture all the examples.

Mr Cannock says the House of Lords concluded that exploration was an urgent national priority. Dr Broderick says the report was by the economic affairs committee and it was not looking at climate change.

Mr Cannock turns to a report by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, which called for a moratorium for fracking. He says a written ministerial statement in 2015 does not call for a moratorium. The government was not persuaded by the EAC report. No, Dr Broderick replies.

Mr Cannock says a 2016 report from the Committee on Climate Change acknowledges there will be some emissions from oil and gas developments, however tightly regulated. The government responded to the report, Mr Cannnock says. The government agrees there is uncertainty and the answer to uncertainty is about exploration. Dr Broderick replies:

“it depends on the uncertainty. If the uncertainty is about the bridge to a low carbon future then exploration is not the answer.”

Mr Cannock turns to the May 2018 written ministerial statement on energy policy. This significantly post-dates the Paris Agreement, he says. The document says there are benefits from developing UK onshore oil and gas, Mr Cannock says. It is the government’s position that they are considering consistency of policy with carbon budgets and international obligations, Mr Cannock says. Dr Broderick replies:

“That doesn’t mean that government policy is laid out to achieve obligations”

Mr Cannock puts it to Dr Broderick that every scenario by the Committee on Climate Change to meet carbon targets requires the use of gas. Dr Broderick says the scenarios were compiled before the Paris Agreement.

Mr Cannock says the WMS states that shale gas development is of national importance. The conclusion of the government is that shale gas is of national importance. That is the position of the government, Dr Broderick agrees. Mr Cannock says Dr Broderick’s position to phase out natural gas production is incompatible with government policy. Dr Broderick says there should be carbon budgets and timescales to phase out gas production.


1.40pm: Inquiry resumes


12.40pm: Lunch break

The inquiry resumes at 1.40pm


11.27am: Dr John Broderick gives evidence for the council

Dr Broderick is a lecturer at the University of Manchester, based at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

He says his area of expertise is carbon accounting.

He tells the inquiry that he has provided advice to the UK government, the International Energy Agency, European Parliament and House of Commons audit committee.

Shale gas and Paris Agreement

190116 epi 1145

Dr John Broderick giving evidence to the IGas inquiry, 16 January 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Dr Broderick says the Paris Agreement on climate change sets the  rise in temperature increase since industrial times to below 2 degrees and attempt to limit the rise to 1.5 degrees.

He says

“Our approach to energy and climate policy should be working towards the goals that we have agreed to [in the Paris Agreement]”

Dr Broderick says under the Paris Agreement, developed nations would take the lead in the shift towards low carbon and would adopt more stringent targets than less developed nations.

The report on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in October 2018 has described the likely impact of temperature rise, Dr Broderick says. The UK government has ask the Committee on Climate Change to reconsider its advice on reaching emissions targets in the light of the IPCC report.

Dr Broderick says “there is a a very serious risk” of failing to reach reductions targets.

He says technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, “unreasonably lends support for the continued and long-term use of gas and oil”. But Dr Broderick says these technologies are still in technical development.

Urgent need to phase out fossil fuels

Dr Broderick says:

“An urgent programme to phase out natural gas and fossil fuels in the EU is an imperative of any scientific-informed and equity based policies.”

He says this was the conclusion of a study on carbon budgets he was involved in that was carried out before the IPCC report in October 2018.

The carbon budgets study concluded that fossil fuels should be phased out completely within two decades, he says.

“we have very little emissions space available to us to avoid temperature increases limited by the Paris Agreement. We have about two decades in which to move to a very low carbon economy.

“Any addition of greenhouse gases from this way forward deducts from our future safe emissions space”

Sustainability policy

Dr Broderick says he interprets Cheshire West and Chester’s sustainability policy to mean that it complies with the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

Asked why the IGas scheme does not comply with the sustainability policy, Dr Broderick says the company is applying to explore with an objective of future production. He says it is targeting fossil fuels currently in the ground that should not be used if climate targets were to be met.

Robert Griffiths, for Cheshire West and Chester Council, puts it to Dr Broderick that the inquiry cannot consider production. Dr Broderick replies

“I can’t see what the purpose of exploration of hydrocarbons is if it is not to lead to production.”

Climate change mitigation

Mr Griffiths asks whether his view depends on the level of production. Dr Broderick there is already sufficient hydrocarbon resource available to exceed the international carbon budgets.

Dr Broderick says the movement of carbon from below to above the ground – through production of oil and gas – is causing more, not less, climate change.

The UK has historically seen as a climate change leader, immediately after the 2008 Climate Change Act. We are seen as technically competent and politically motivated to reduce emissions, Dr Broderick says.

“The Climate Change Act is very important. It includes a long-term target, a set of budgets that get you towards that long-term target. It has a scrutiny mechanism and a monitoring method.”

The government’s shale gas policy is contentious throughout the UK. He adds:

“mitigation is what we do to reduce our impact on the climate. Gas production is a deliberate act of moving carbon from below the ground to above the ground where it has a damaging effect on the climate.

“The exploration and production of additional reserves [of oil and gas] cannot be considered mitigation of climate change.

“It is not policy that determines whether something is mitigation. It is the physical nature of the act.”

Dr Broderick adds:

“Hydrocarbon production should not be considered climate change mitigation.”

Bridge fuel

Dr Brockerick says there will no relative benefits from shale gas displacing coal.

He says shale gas may be a bridge industry but it is important to specify the time period.

“The bridge arguments are made in very general times without quantifying the volumes or duration. Without these, I don’t find that a compelling argument”.


11.03am: Break

The inquiry resumes at 11.25am.


11.02am: Further questions from inspector on climate change

Brian Cook, the inquiry inspector, asks how emissions could be measured. Do you need an exploration phase to understand what would be emitted, he asks.

Dr Paul Balcombe, climate change witness for the council, agrees.


9.55am: Re-examination of Dr Paul Balcombe

190115 epi 1415

Dr Paul Balcombe. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Robert Griffiths, the barrister for Cheshire West and Chester Council, reviews the evidence of the council’s climate change expert, Dr Paul Balcombe.

Mr Griffiths asks how long Dr Balcombe has been studying the burning of methane. Four years, says Dr Balcombe. In that time, Dr Balcombe says there is a greater work underway on methane flows. There is more understanding of what is not known.

Impact of methane on climate change

There is greater understanding of the effect of methane on the atmosphere, he says. Emissions are higher and methane has a greater effect than previously thought, Dr Balcombe says.

The forcing effect of methane – the warming effect of the gas on climate – is greater than previously thought, Dr Balcombe adds.

This makes it more important to mitigate, to avoid the venting of methane, he says.

Dr Balcombe says to get a better understanding of methane from gas exploration you would need a more accurate idea of flow rates.

There is very little evidence on this topic, Dr Balcombe says.

190116 epi 1025

Mr Griffiths asks how do you develop a mitigation strategy without knowing the nature of the problem? Are we shooting n the dark at the moment, he asks. Dr Balcombe says the methane emissions do not need to be measured under the regulations. This means we don’t know what damage we are doing to the climate, Dr Balcombe says.

“I think we should be monitoring emissions because we don’t know how much is being emitted during exploration.”

Flares

Dr Balcombe says a shrouded ground flare, to be used in the drill stem test at Ellesmere Port, has an efficiency of around 65%. The enclosed flare for the extended well test has an efficiency of more than 99%. This means the extended well test flare would convert more of the methane to carbon dioxide.

Dr Balcombe says he would prefer gas not to be flared. Asked about the choice of flare, he says he can advise only on the decision to flare, not on the choice of flare.

Mr Griffiths says the Environment Agency considers the best available technique for disposing of waste gas is flaring. Dr Balcombe says there is not justification for this argument because the flow rate and composition of the gas is unknown.

Mr Griffiths says industry guidance requires operators to justify the use of an unenclosed flare. Dr Balcombe says IGas intends to use an unenclosed shrouded flare for the drill stem test. He repeats that the shrouded, unenclosed flare, will have a lower efficiency and therefore a greater impact on the environment.

Mr Griffiths says additional mitigation for unenclosed flares is recommended by industry guidance. Dr Balcombe accepts that IGas has not put forward this additional mitigation for the drill stem test.

Harnessing gas

Dr Balcombe says harnessing gas – the capture of gas – would avoid direct methane emissions.

It would be using the gas for a purpose, for electricity generation or to feed into the gas main, Dr Balcombe says. The principle is adopted but technical guidelines say this requires treatment plant and on-site generators.

Dr Balcombe says there would not be information on flow rates for the drill stem test. This would make harnessing more difficult. But he says harnessing could be used for the extended well test.

Barristers disagree

Giles Cannock, barrister for IGas, says this is not re-examination but a repeat of the examination in chief. Mr Griffiths says he is re-examining the witness on a document put to Dr Balcombe by Mr Cannock. Mr Griffiths says:

“The fact that you do no like an answer is not a reason for me to pursue it.”

Best available techniques

Mr Griffiths, barrister for Cheshire West and Chester Council, refers to 2016 guidance by the industry body, UK Onshore Oil and Gas.

This says enclosed flares provide the best performance for incinerating waste gases, Mr Griffiths says. But the guidance says shrouded flares would be considered if the operator showed that an enclosed flare was not suitable and there would not be a greater environmental impact. Dr Balcombe says he is not aware that this guidance has not been updated.

Dr Balcombe says he is not aware of any document which says flaring is the best available technique for dealing with waste gas.

UK shale gas climate impact

Dr Balcombe tells the inquiry that UK shale gas production is not complementary to the UK’s decarbonisation targets.


9.40am: Inspector’s questions to Dr Paul Balcombe

190115 epi inspector small

The inquiry inspector, Brian Cook (left), puts further questions to Dr Paul Balcombe, a climate change witness for Cheshire West and Chester Council.

Mr Cook asks what would be the effect of mitigation of emissions from the well test process. Dr Balcombe says the best mitigation would be to capture the gas by piping it into the main or using it to make electricity. The next best mitigation would be to flare the gas. The worst option would be to vent the gas.

Mr Cook asks how long has it been the consensus that the best process is to convert methane to carbon dioxide. Dr Balcombe says “as long as we have know about climate change”.

Mr Cook asks whether government policy was based on this understanding. Dr Balcombe says understanding of methane has improved in the past five years, particularly the increasingly powerful warming potential of methane.

The inspector asks how the emissions from flow testing would compare with those from the motorway passing the site. Dr Balcombe says the emissions from cars are of a different type to those from an oil site. The inspector says he is trying to understand how long it would take traffic on the motorway to put the equivalent amount of carbon into the atmosphere.


9.34am: Statement from Cllr Matt Bryan

190116 epi 0934

Cllr Matt Bryan (left) giving evidence to the inquiry

Cllr Bryan, a member of Cheshire West and Chester Council, says he is representing his residents in his Upton ward, not the council. He says he opposes IGas’s proposed operation at Ellesmere Port

He says IGas drilled 1000m+ deeper at the Ellesmere Port well than it said it would. This had led to stress and anxiety among residents, he says.

“Whilst this may not form a material planning objection it goes some way to show just one of dozens I could talk about which indicates why my community and other communities quite frankly do not trust this unsavoury cowboy outfit.

He reads statements issued by Cheshire West and Chester Council about the depth of drilling. The council said it had asked regulators to look into the issue and would consider what action to take.

Cllr Bryan says:

“To my knowledge no coherent response was received from the appropriate regulator although when I first spotted this I contact the British Geological Survey and they said it was nothing to do with them.

“I was then told by the head of planning that it wouldn’t be expedient to take action and ‘I shouldn’t use the planning process to batter my opponents around the head'”

Cllr Bryan adds:

“Climate change threatens our very existence.

“Science is moving fast and government policy is important but great weight must be placed on international obligations and policy, which our government is moving towards rapidly.

“Action is needed now and I implore the inspector to make the wholly justified decision to reject this appeal.

Giles Cannock, barrister for IGas, asks Cllr Bryan whether he accepts the statement of common ground on the well depth. Cllr Bryan says he does not agree with the statement. Mr Cannock says the council’s case officer dealt with the issue of well depth at the planning committee meeting in January 2018. Cllr Bryan says his concerns are well documented.


9.30am: Inquiry opens

Inquiry chairman, Brian Cook, opens the second day of the inquiry.


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

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