Regulation

Live news updates: Day 5 of inquiry into IGas test plans for Ellesmere Port well

 

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IGas site at Ellesmere Port, 21 January 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

This post has live news updates from Day 5 of the inquiry into IGas plans to test for gas flows at its well at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire. The hearing will hear the first witnesses for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton: Professor Kevin Anderson on climate change; and Professor David Smythe and Robin Grayson on geology.

The inquiry is examining the decision by Cheshire West and Chester Council, to refuse permission for the well test scheme in January 2018. The council said the scheme failed to mitigate the effects on climate change. 

The inquiry in Chester will run until Thursday 24 January and then reconvene with a separate extra hearing from Tuesday 26 February to Friday 1 March.

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

Preview of the inquiry and all the news from each day on DrillOrDrop’s  Ellesmere Port inquiry page


Key points from today’s hearing

Professor Kevin Anderson, climate change

  • “IGas’s failure to assess its own GHG impact is negligent”
  • “Hydrocarbon developments are difficult to reconcile with UK climate change commitments” 
  • Greenhouse gas emissions from IGas well test are the equivalent of all the gas use of 8,000 homes for a year or driving round the world 3,500 times
  • “Only if you were a climate sceptic would you invest in a new fossil fuel industry today”
  • Shale gas development cannot meet the Committee on Climate Change’s three tests to become compatible with climate obligations
  • Shale gas does not provide medium to long-term energy security
  • Councils should consider seriously the climate implications of what is happening in their areas

Professor David Smythe, geology

  • Accused IGas of presenting geological data, possibly from Ince Marshes, for Ellesmere Port well site
  • Target formation is likely to be unconventional geology 
  • Geology around the well site is cut by dozens of faults
  • Based on the volume and concentration of acid required, IGas appears to be seeking to use matrix acidisation to stimulate the well
  • “Little confidence” that IGas plans will not lead to contamination of the aquifer or escape of gas

Robin Grayson, geology

  • The target formation – called the Pentre Chert by IGas – is really the Bowland shale
  • There are risks in the testing plans from hydrogen sulphide and selenium
  • Testing should not take place unless IGas can first demonstrate that these risks will not materialise
  • There should be set back distance of 1,500m for shale gas wells in the Bowland Shale in northern England

4.45pm Inquiry closes

The inquiry resumes at 9.30am on Wednesday 23 January 2019 with evidence from Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton on the location of the IGas site.


4.45pm No re-examination


3.51pm Cross-examination of Robin Grayson

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Robin Grayson (right) at the Ellesmere Port inquiry, 22 January 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Giles Cannock, barrister for IGas, questions Robin Grayson, the geology witness for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton.

Conventional, alternative or unconventional?

Mr Cannock says the IGas proposal is for an “alternative hydrocarbon”. Mr Grayson asks what that means.

Mr Cannock asks why whether the proposal is conventional or unconventional is relevant. Estelle Dehon, barrister for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton, says it is because IGas had said it is relevant.

Mr Grayson says

When a company cannot decide in its public document cannot decide whether the formation is a chert or shale and then says it is a Pentre Chert, which is in Wales. I am in a real difficulty.

IGas said Pentre Chert was a conventional resource, Mr Grayson says, but it is a shale.

It is an excellent frackable shale, because it is part of the Bowland Shale.

It follows that you are saying it is an unconventional well, Mr Cannock says.

Mr Grayson says, the risk is that IGas is trying to develop a gas field in a fault zone:

That’s the worse thing you can do – developing a gas field in a built up area when you cannot define where the fault is.

Revoking the permission

Mr Grayson called for the permission to be revoked. That is not the position of the council. Mr Grayson says the decision was made on the basis of the information before it.

Estelle Dehon says the group is not asking for the former permission should be revoked.

That raises a question of why a non-planning witness has raised a planning issue, Brian Cook, the inspector asks. Ms Dehon agrees.

Risks

Mr Cannock puts it to Mr Grayson that the risk of blow out and fire was considered acceptable by the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency.

Neither the well examiner, nor the regulators, required culverts to be blocked, Mr Cannock says. Mr Grayson says these are the biggest risks to the area.

Mr Cannock says properly-designed and built wells would prevent unplanned escape of fluid from rock formations.

If you gave correct information it would but IGas did not. IGas cannot identify the formation, which I find disgraceful, Mr Grayson says. With the incorrect information you gave them, the regulators cannot come up with a sensible judgement. They have to accept certain details as correct, he says. Your information prejudiced what they wrote.

Hydrogen sulphide

The industry is acutely aware of the threat of H2S, Mr Cannock says. Mr Grayson says H2S affects the value of the gas. It is an issue of what to do with the gas, he says.

Mr Cannock says the regulators are extremely cautious about H2S. Mr Grayson says the worst thing that can happen to a rig is H2S. In the US, sweet wells turn sour, he says. One of the reasons is that those rocks turn sour.

Offset well data, from other sites, would give information about risk, Mr Cannock says. Mr Grayson says there are serious problems of H2S in the Chester area. Extreme caution, rather than take into consideration, he adds. The local community should be informed, Mr Grayson says.

Even if the risk is low, monitoring equipment would be used to give an early warning, Mr Cannock says. Mr Grayson says this would not provide early warning to the local population and emergency services. Mr Grayson asks:

Do you know where the people are that you have move? Do you know what roads to close? Do you have a plan for that situation?

This is not the place for a well with the risk of H2S, Mr Grayson says.

Mr Cannock says there is no evidence of anhydrite – the cause of H2S – in drilling the well. Mr Grayson agrees but says this could be missed and the H2S could travel horizontally.

Mr Cannock puts it to Mr Grayson that H2S was not encountered during drilling the EP-1 well or drilling at Ince Marshes. Mr Grayson says that does not mean it was not present in the district:

“You did not find it in two wells. Congratulations. The risk is high”

Mr Cannock says if H2S were discovered, the EP-1 well would be shut in and suspended, pending a review. Mr Grayson says “I would hope so”.

That would protect local residents, Mr Cannock says. No, Mr Grayson replies. You have 15 minutes to leave the site, he says. It does not mean there is 15 minutes to deal with the risk to people nearby.

There are existing controls that need not be duplicated during this inquiry, Mr Cannock says. Mr Grayson says there was a serious problem at a nearby borehole.

There is no evidence that H2S migrates, Mr Cannock says. H2S can travel in any direction and you haven’t taken account of that, Mr Grayson says.

Your drilling and seismic testing is not good enough. Anything that disturbs that formation is a risk.

I don’s see why the local community and environment should take that risk on your behalf.

Groundwater contamination

Mr Cannock puts it to Mr Grayson that the Environment Agency had no concerns about the effect of the acid wash on contamination of groundwater.

Mr Grayson says the sherwood sandstone is a primary aquifer for the country.

Mr Cannock says the depths of the flow test makes contamination unlikely, and knowing there is well integrity, this is a matter for the Environment Agency, which it is has considered.

Mr Grayson says “not likely” is not a good reflection on the project.

Selenium

Mr Cannock asks why there is a concern about selenium in flowback from the acid wash. Mr Grayson says unnecessary disturbance of the shale would include pyrite, the carrier for selenium.

Mr Cannock asks why flowback would cause a problem for human health. Mr Grayson says you are bringing something from a deep environment to the surface. There will be people handling it, there may be leaks in pipes, and where will you take it, Mr Grayson asks.


3.25pm Evidence from Robin Grayson, geology expert

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Robin Grayson giving evidence at the Ellesmere Port inquiry, 22 January 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Estelle Dehon, barrister for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton, introduces Robin Grayson, a senior consultant on geology and the environment.

Conventional or unconventional?

Mr Grayson tells the inquiry:

Ellesmere Port-1 is implausible as a conventional well and, in my professional judgement, was drilled for unconventional oil and gas. I am concerned that fractured chert is the target.

He says:

IGas suggests that the Pentre Chert is a conventional target stating that “This geometry allows for an accumulation of conventionally trapped hydrocarbons within the Pentre Chert in a stratigraphic pinch out”.

My reappraisal of the geology shows scant evidence of a pinch-out on 2-D seismic line along the highway past Ellesmere Port-1 by Shell, and the repeat of that line by confidential 3-D seismic would be wholly insufficient to determine if a pinch-out was present.

Pentre Chert

Mr Grayson has concerns about IGas’s description of the rock formation as Pentre Chert. He says:

The Pentre Chert is only found in Wales. It has never been found in England.

Congratulations to IGas for discovering something unknown to the rest of England.

Chert is a flint, Mr Grayson says.

This is fundamentally different to shale. I am appalled that IGas can state publicly on its press releases, being an AIM listed company, material that is misleading.

This has also contaminated the British Geological Survey records, he says.

Hydrogen sulphide

IGas said it did not expect to find gas containing hydrogen sulphide. Mr Grayson says:

The risk of encountering a pocket of sour gas with dangerous levels of toxic, explosive, inflammable hydrogen sulphide (H2S) is also significant.

By drilling far deeper than the coal measures IGas entered a completely different hazard regime, including H2S, by drilling into the older rocks of the Bowland Basin.

Mr Grayson says he is concerned that local emergency services have not been trained on how to deal with H2S.

The companies have a responsibility beyond their fence. He says IGas would benefit from informing local people about what to do in an emergency.

Mr Grayson says a nearby borehole established there is H2S in the Chester area, which means it should be taken very seriously by anyone drilling in the Chester area.

Selenium

Mr Grayson says studies found exceptionally high levels of selenium in north west England, Wales and Ireland.

The Ellesmere Port well was not tested for selenium, he says. Permission for exploration should be refused under the precautionary principle, because toxic substances could be found.

Mr Grayson says there should be a set back distance of 1,500m for shale gas wells in northern England because of the risk of blow out and toxic elements.

He says the Environment Agency cannot take a meaningful decision on precautions if it has not been given detailed information.

Mr Grayson says his concerns on selenium and H2S remain, regardless of whether or not acid use for an acid wash or matrix acidisation.

Contamination of the aquifer

IGas says the well does not pass through a principal aquifer.

Mr Grayson says just because an area is not in a source protection zone for groundwater does not mean it may not be in the future.

The borehole records are insufficient to prove or disprove faulting, Mr Grayson says. He says details that should have been meticulously recorded by IGas are missing.

I am concerned that one or more of the many faults in the Ellesmere Port area that cuts through the sandstone aquifer may be seismically active and thereby the risk of contaminating the sandstone aquifer by toxic heavy metals from the stream sediments may be significantly increased; again an event that cannot be reversed.

Mr Grayson concludes:

There are a number of risks or impacts arising from the geology of the area which are relevant to whether permission should be granted for the IGas application. Each of these risks are real and mean that a precautionary approach should be taken and that the testing should not take place unless IGas can first demonstrate that these risks will not materialise.


3.05pm Break

The inquiry resumes at 3.25pm


2.41pm Re-examination of Professor Kevin Anderson

Estelle Dehon, barrister for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton, reviews the evidence of the group’s climate change witness, Professor Kevin Anderson.

She asks Professor Anderson how fossil fuel exploration would compare with other forms of development.

It would depend on the scale, he replies. On a wider view, he says:

Climate change is about the impact from an increase temperature caused by additional emissions into the atmosphere. By burning fossil fuels and exploring for additional fossil fuels we are adding to climate change.

This is irresponsible from a climate change point of view. To remain within an temperature increase of  1.5C we need to keep 85%-90% of fossil fuels in the ground.

Houses and transport have low carbon alternatives. Fossil fuels are a high carbon developments. There is nothing you can do. If you are serious about climate change, a reasoned scientific or moral point of view would say we already have more than enough fossil fuels to take us way beyond 2C of warming.

Ms Dehon asks if emissions from the extended well test could be partially captured would that help. Professor Anderson says it would be better to capture than not capture.

But he says if the project was entirely for exploration, why would you go ahead if you could not capture all the emissions.

He adds:

There has to be some other merit to this project than just  interesting exploration.

If there is some other point, those emissions have to be taken into account. Those emissions cannot be captured.

You will be putting huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that cannot be used elsewhere and that contribute to climate change.

Carbon budgets

Professor Anderson says he considers the Committee on Climate Change will review the effect of the IPCC report on UK carbon budgets.

Economic effects

Ms Dehon asks Professor Anderson whether the government will have to look at the cost escalation and locked-in assets. These are pivotal issues, Professor Anderson says.

He refers to a paper from last week from Oxford University. This concludes that we cannot develop anymore fossil fuel infrastructure to stay within 1.5C. The Stern Report, produced for the Treasury, dealt with similar issues and has not been incorporated into government policy, Professor Anderson says:

Only if you were a climate sceptic would you invest in a new fossil fuel industry today

2C of warming locks in 7m of sea level rise, Professor Anderson says. He says there would be the loss of pollinating insects – the cost of artificial crop pollination would be colossal, he says. He says there needs to be a global view of what he describes as a “massive experiment”

Committee on Climate Change tests

The CCC says shale gas development at scale in the UK is not compatible with carbon targets unless three tests were met. The third test requires emissions from shale gas to be incorporated into UK carbon budgets.

Ms Dehon asks whether shale gas could meet this test.

Professor Anderson says if we suspended other hgh carbon activities, such as heating homes or flying, then theoretically the test could be met. But practically, it could not, he says.

Are we presently meeting the third test, Ms Dehon asks. No, says Professor Anderson. We are slightly moving further away from it, he adds.

Applause from the audience.


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The inquiry inspector, Brian Cook, (facing) and the council barrister, Robert Griffiths, 17 January 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop


2.36pm Questions by the inspector

Brian Cook, the inquiry inspector (above), asks about carbon budget: the concept that any molecule of carbon emitted to the atmosphere cannot be emitted by another sector. Professor Anderson agrees.

Should that be something that councils are confronted by any proposal, Mr Cook asks. Professor Anderson says they should. This should include diesel emissions from traffic, Mr Cook asks. Yes, says Professor Anderson.


1.31pm Cross-examination of Professor Kevin Anderson

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Professor Kevin Anderson, right, at the Ellesmere Port inquiry, 22 January 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Giles Cannock, barrister for IGas, cross-examines Professor Anderson, the climate witness for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton.

Mr Cannock says he wants to address the relevance of Professor Anderson’s evidence to the inquiry.

Committee on Climate Change report on shale gas

Mr Cannock begins with a report from the government’s advisor, the Committee on Climate Change. This concluded that shale gas production at scale was not compatible with UK targets unless three tests were met.

Mr Cannock puts it to Professor Anderson that advice from the CCC makes distinctions between different phases of hydrocarbon development. Mr Cannock says the CCC recognises uncertainty and that the uncertainty requires exploratory drilling.

Professor Anderson disagrees. He says part of uncertainty is the production of the gas and the fugitive emissions in that process. The recent increase in methane which correlates with shale gas production in the US. Exploratory drilling alone would not be resolve this uncertainty.

Mr Cannock says the sentence is not unclear. To take a single sentence out of a complex issue is likely to be unclear, Professor Anderson replies.

Mr Cannock says the CCC tests apply to production at a significant scale. Professor Anderson says this is also linked to the production process.

Mr Cannock says the three tests do not apply to production. Professor Anderson says the CCC at the time would have been considering the whole process.

The government responded to the CCC report by saying uncertainty needed to resolved by exploration. Professor Anderson says the government has other commitments. The minister has now asked the CCC to review the conclusions of the October 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Mr Cannock repeats that the CCC tests do not apply at the exploratory stage.

Professor Anderson disagrees:

I am convinced that the CCC thinks that the exploratory stage is important. It specifically stated that emissions at the exploratory stage should not be assumed to be low.

It is too technical an interpretation to discount exploration from the tests.

We have seen a rapid increase in atmospheric methane that correlates with US shale gas production, over and above super-emitters.

The government says emissions mitigations should be employed where practical.

Professor Anderson says

If emissions are very high, it may be that we should not develop shale gas. If you cannot capture the methane source because it is not practical, you should consider whether you should be producing shale gas.

Professor Anderson says the emissions mitigation must fit within existing carbon budgets.

Mr Cannock, for IGas, says emissions from UK domestic shale gas production must displace imports and be offset by other parts of the economy.

Professor Anderson says the government’s then chief scientific advisor, David Mackay, said new fossil fuels will add to climate change.

Mr Cannock puts it to Professor Anderson that the environmental permit controls fugitive emissions.

Professor Anderson says 17,000 tonnnes of carbon dioxide from the flow test has to come off the UK carbon budget. This will limit any future production from the well, he sas

Written ministerial statement on shale gas

Mr Cannock refers to the written ministerial statement (WMS) from May 2018. This requires shale gas to be consistent with the UK’s climate change obligation.

Professor Anderson says the government cannot know what the UK’s climate change obligations are because the Committee on Climate Change had not done the analysis of what the Paris Agreement would mean.

Mr Cannock says the WMS said the UK needed a secure and stable supply of energy. Professor Anderson says the government has a “myriad” of concerns but he cannot comment on them.

National Planning Policy Framework

Mr Cannock says the NPPF recognises onshore oil and gas because it supports a transition to a low carbon future.

Professor Anderson says the CCC has not calculated the budget for the Paris Agreement or IPCC report so we don’t know the impact of hydrocarbons.

Professor Anderson says the NPPF also requires radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

It is hard to see how you would reconcile huge volumes of greenhouse gases with radical reductions.

IPCC report

Mr Cannock refers to the report from October 2018 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He says the energy minister has asked the Committee on Climate Change to review the IPCC report. The request excludes carbon budgets, Mr Cannock says.

Professor Anderson says the minister later refined the request and said the advice would include carbon budgets.

Mr Cannock says the CCC should consider scientific knowledge; economic circumstances; impact on competitiveness, taxation and economic circumstances; social circumstances and fuel poverty; and fuel intensity. It is wider than scientific knowledge, Mr Cannock says.

Professor Anderson agrees. He says the IPCC report concludes that a 1.5+C increase would have wide economic implications.


1.30pm Inquiry resumes


12.30pm Break

The inquiry resumes at 1.30pm.


11.40am Evidence of Professor Kevin Anderson on climate change

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Professor Kevin Anderson giving evidence to the Ellesmere Port inquiry, 22 January 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Estelle Dehon, barrister for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton, introduces Professor Kevin Anderson, the climate change witness for the group.

Professor Anderson has examined issues around energy and climate change within the Tyndall Centre (the UK’s leading interdisciplinary and academic climate change research centre) since 2001. Before becoming an academic in the mid-1990s he worked for a decade as an engineer, principally in the petrochemical industry.

The inquiry hears that Professor Anderson had worked on writing the UK’s Climate Change Act. He was commissioned by the European Parliament Petitions Committee to review the ‘low carbon’ credentials of unconventional natural gas and acted as a peer reviewer for the Department of Energy and Climate Change report on the same topic.

Greenhouse gas impact of IGas scheme

Professor Anderson tells the inquiry:

IGas have not calculated the greenhouse gas (“GHG”) impact of their own proposal and they confirmed in correspondence they do not have GHG emission figures. In light of UK Government’s rising concern over issues of climate change, that IGas are proposing fossil fuel exploration without even knowing what its GHG impact will be is imprudent, at best. But when considered alongside the express conclusion of the Climate Change Committee (“CCC”) that “it should not be taken as a given that emissions from exploration will be low, especially for any extended well tests”, IGas’s failure to assess its own GHG impact is negligent, all the more so for a company operating in an industry so reliant on robust analysis, measurement and compliance.

IPCC report

Professor Anderson says a recent report in October 2018 by the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change concluded that:

“in order to achieve a limit of 1.5°C with limited overshoot requires rapid and far reaching transitions in energy and other systems, much more rapidly than had previously been required. A deep reduction in emissions of methane is required and global CO2 emissions must begin declining immediately if we are to have a chance of achieving a 1.5°C with limited overshoot”.

Ms Dehon asks Professor Anderson to explain a summary of the IPCC guidance for policymakers. This sets out the main conclusions of the report, he says.

By overshoot, the IPCC means the desired 1.5C temperature increase may be exceeded temporarily, he says.

The IPCC report concludes that if we stopped all greenhouse gas emissions immediately, there is not enough carbon in the atmosphere to result in a 1.5C temperature rise. Warming would be about 1C, the IPCC concludes, Professor Anderson says.

“If we are to hold to 1.5C, we have a very small carbon budget available. Every additional molecule of carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere has to come from that budget.

“We can never think of any greenhouse gas emissions as irrelevant because we have so little climate space available”

The report was asked for by policymakers. The impacts of 1.5C is not desirable.

The impacts on ecosystems would be severe. 70% of coral would be wiped out at 1.5C and eliminated completely at 2C.

The report concludes we need to hold to 1.5C, Professor Anderson says.

It is a very important wake up call on climate change

Negative emissions

Professor Anderson says in future there may be technology to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. These technologies do not exist and there are concerns that they may not be viable.

Most government scenarios rely on negative emissions technologies. But there is growing concerns about this, Professor Anderson says.

The IPCC report is much more cautious about negative technologies.

They impact on the natural world, soils, biodiversity and ecosystems. They involve planting large numbers of trees and then burning them and burying the carbon.

Only one of four climate change scenarios does not rely on negative emissions technology, Professor Anderson says.

Government policy

The energy minister, Claire Perry, has asked the government advisor to comment on the IPCC report, Professor Anderson says

The Committee on Climate Change has not given advice on the UK’s mitigation commitments under the Paris climate change agreement, Professor Anderson says.

Michael Gove speech

Ms Dehon asks Professor Anderson about a speech by the environment secretary, Michael Gove, about UK commitment made after the IPCC report.

Professor Anderson says the speech pointed to the fact that we know what we have to do but that the time frame is “incredibly tight”.

“The UK is already suffering the implications of the climate change we have seen to date, of 1.1C. We are already vulnerable to the climate change we have already caused.

Given that we know we will see additional warming, if councils are to consider seriously the current and next generations, they need to consider the climate change implications of what is going on in their area.

This is a clear signal from Michael Gove, Professor Anderson says. It is a very good conduit from what the science is saying to what policymakers are saying.

“Hydrocarbon difficult to reconcile with UK commitments”

Professor says:

the UK’s Paris 1.5°C commitment, informed by the 2018 IPCC 1.5°C Special Report, puts such tight and deepening constraints on the UK’s available carbon budget that new hydrocarbon developments are difficult to reconcile with the UK’s contribution to limiting warming to 1.5°C.

The 2015 CCC Report shows that they are not compatible with the UK’s climate targets (even at 2°C) until the three tests are met.

None of the tests have been met and it looks highly unlikely that meeting the third test is possible, with the CCC concluding that the UK is set to miss both its fourth and fifth carbon budgets.

Professor Anderson says the government has not put in place policies to comply with the fourth and fifth carbon budgets set to achieve the targets set in the Climate Change Act.

These budgets were put together before the Paris Agreement. Our emissions are too high to meet those budgets, Professor Anderson says.

Cumulative emissions from hydrocarbon developments

Any additional hydrocarbon sources would add to cumulative carbon emissions, Professor Anderson.

Even within the UK, there is an absence of strong climate policy, Professor Anderson says:

To argue that domestic shale gas is less worse for climate change than LNG misunderstands the fundamental reasons for concerns and the scientific principle for cumulative emissions.

Committee on Climate Change tests for shale gas

The CCC set three tests for shale gas production to be compatible with climate change objectives.

  1. Strict limits on emissions. But IGas has not provided data on greenhouse gas emissions. Without that it is difficult to say how to limit emissions.
  2. UK shale gas must displace imported gas. Any additional fossil fuel reserves brought into production would add to climate change. Test cannot be met
  3. Shale gas production must be accommodated within existing climate budgets. We are set to fail our 4th and 5th budgets. There appears to be little space in other sectors of the economy to make way for shale gas emissions.

Professor Anderson says

Any scientific assessment indicates that we cannot deliver on those tests.

On the third test, Professor Anderson says it is not the remit of the Environment Agency to set limits for greenhouse gas emissions.

Shale gas is high carbon energy”

Professor Anderson says:

This development is not “low carbon”. Fossil fuels are by their nature high carbon energy sources with natural gas comprising 75% carbon by mass, and consequently emit large quantities of carbon dioxide once combusted.

Local authority carbon emissions

Professor Anderson says:

“DECC has produced a nationally consistent set of carbon dioxide emissions estimates at Local Authority level, which it clearly considers are an appropriate metric to use. These allow Local Authorities to track their GHG emissions trends over time, to measure progress against any targets they have and to take steps to reduce those emissions.

“This approach supports local authorities, such as Cheshire West and Chester, being aware of the level of emissions within their geographical area and taking steps to reduce those emissions.”

Professor Anderson says the estimate of 17,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent from the IGas well test looks reasonable.

It is the equivalent of all the gas use of 8,000 homes or driving round the world in a typical saloon car 3,500 times.

It is a significant proportion of local emissions, especially given the short period of the tests, Professor Anderson says:

it is a carbon molecule that cannot be used in a school or a social enterprise. If we live with carbon budgets, this carbon cannot be used elsewhere.

“Fugitive emissions are significant and increasingly affecting the atmosphere”

Professor Anderson says:

A current scientific paper suggests that, “shale gas production in North America over the past decade may be the single largest cause for the global increase in atmospheric methane”. Its conclusions have major implications for any evidence-based development of UK shale gas.

Energy security and supply

Professor Anderson says this can be improved through energy efficiency and service improvements combined with related policies which are very significant and far more cost effective than simply increasing energy supply.

Shale gas also does not provide medium to long term energy security. Shale gas development in the UK is probably the most publicly contested source of energy, which adds to ‘insecurity’ of supply.

Carbon Impact of the Proposed Development

Professor Anderson says:

This development will cause GHG emissions during its construction, operation and decommissioning, including fugitive emissions, cold venting, flaring, ancillary plant, transport and restoration.

“Unwise to proceed”

Professor Anderson adds:

From a near-term emissions perspective, it would be unwise to proceed with the exploratory proposal as its unknown level of emissions would reduce still further the small 2°C carbon budget (and even smaller 1.5°C carbon budget) available to the remainder of the UK generally or Cheshire West and Chester more specifically.

Cold venting

This is the release of methane from the well without being burned. It will have more impact per molecule than carbon dioxide releases, Professor Anderson says.

Methane is at least 34 times warming  than the equivalent volume of carbon dioxide, Professor Anderson says. The level of warming could be as high as 90 times more powerful over the short-term, he says.


11.15am Re-examination of Professor David Smythe

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Estelle Dehon (left), barrister for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton, reviews the evidence of Professor David Smythe, geology witness for the group.

Ms Dehon says the IGas waste management plan mentions 15% acid concentration, while IGas said the concentration would be 7.5%. Professor Smythe says there is confusion. “We are not clear about the strength of acid to be used”.

Ms Dehon says the EA permit limits acid concentration to 7.5% but other numbers “keep popping up in the documentation”.

Definitions and concerns

Ms Dehon says the waste management plan says the acid will pass up to 1m into formation and may go further but will be recovered.

Do you equate that process with matrix acidisation, Ms Dehon asks. Yes says Professor Smythe, if it goes beyond 1m diameter. Regulators in California used a radius from the well 36 inches as a definition for matrix acidisation.

The volume required by IGas supports that view, Professor Smythe says.

If the acid goes less than 1m radius from the wellbore, Ms Dehon says, and it is not matrix acidisation, why would you still have concerns?

Because the well crossed fault zones and possibly other unidentifiable faults, Professor Smythe replies. There could be contamination through these faults.

Geological drawings and faults

Ms Dehon asks Professor Smythe whether the Environment Agency be able to pick up that the drawings provided to them were from 8 miles away at Ince Marshes. No, says Professor Smythe.

The EA has been misled and they are not blameworthy if they have come to certain conclusions based on misleading geological information.

Professor Smythe says the EA could not be expected to pick up faults. They are most interested in the top 500m, he says. They are a bit out of their depth going down to 2-3km. This is a gap in the UK regulations, he says.

Contamination of the aquifer

Giles Cannock, for IGas, said there had been no contamination of the aquifer. Ms Dehon asks what is the significance of that.

Professor Smythe says he does not know how long the monitoring lasted for but it would pick up only short-term contamination. All wells leak, eventually he says. Any contamination may not have reached the aquifer but could do so in the future.

Conventional or unconventional

Ms Dehon, for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton, asks about whether the target rock formation, the Pentre Chert, is conventional or unconventional.

Professor Smythe says:

We asked IGas for data on the permeability of the Pentre Chert. As far as I am aware received nothing back on this topic.


10.58am Break

The inquiry resumes at 11.15am.

People in the audience applaud Professor Smythe.


10.11am Cross-examination of Professor David Smythe

Giles Cannock, barrister for IGas, begins his cross-examination of Professor David Smythe, geology witness for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton.

Matrix acidisation

Professor Smythe says he believes IGas will use matrix acidisation based on the volume and concentration of acid required.

He says the application is misleading for this reason and others. Professor Smythe says he is looking for a condition on the volume and concentration of acid.

Mr Cannock puts it to Professor Smythe says that the  waste management plan addresses these issues.

Professor Smythe says the term acid squeeze has been adopted in the UK – it is a johnny come lately term that has been used in the UK.

There are three level of acid: wash, matrix acidisation and fracturing, Professor Smythe says.

Mr Cannock says the volume of acid is the maximum that would be needed. Professor Smythe says the volume has been exceeded by a factor of seven on what is needed.

Mr Cannock says the permit controls the volume and concentration of the acid. Professor Smythe says IGas is asking for seven times more than is required for acid washing. The permit controls the concentration but not the volume, he adds.

The Environment Agency does not consider what IGas is proposing as hydraulic fracturing or matrix acidisation, Mr Cannock says. Do you accept that position, he asks.

“I am not here to challenge the EA’s definitions”, Professor Smythe says.

He accepts that matrix acidisation and hydraulic fracturing are prohibited. But he says the EA has not explained why the volume acid is so high.

If the EA prohibits matrix acidisation at Ellesmere Port, then Professor Smythe accepts this will not be allowed at the site.

Professor says he has concerns about acid squeeze, which the EA uses and IGas proposes. This will target the geological formation. The term encompasses both wash and matrix acidisatioin, he says.

Distance from the well to wildlife sites

Professor Smythe says IGas evidence that the well is 2.4km from the Site of Special Scientific Interest is incorrect. It is 300m from the boundary, he says.

Mr Cannock, for IGas, says the company’s evidence must be read in totality.

Ellesmere Port meeting poster

Location of the Ellesmere Port wellsite. Map by Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton

Geological data

Giles Cannock, for IGas, reviews criticism by Professor Smythe of the company’s geological data.

Professor Smythe says in his evidence that there is little confidence that the well test will not lead to contamination of the aquifer or an escape of gas.

Mr Cannock puts it to Professor Smythe that the planning authorities must be confident that other regulators will address concerns. Professor Smythe agrees – but he says he does not know whether the Health and Safety Executive has been asked to comment on the acidisation plans.

Professor Smythe accepts that the HSE is responsible for well design. It would have relied on misleading geological data, he says.

Sour gas sites

Professor Smythe says the Ellesmere Port well could have high hydrogen sulphide content. He says the EP1 well has shown only minor shows of gas in the Pentre Chert. Hydrogen sulphide is monitored very carefully at well heads, he says.

Because this rock is tight and requires treatment we have not tested its potential for producing hydrogen sulphide.

Mr Cannock says the drilling process tested for hydrogen sulphide. Greater reliance should be placed on drilling and monitoring, rather than evidence for another oil field, he suggests.

Professor Smythe replies:

Drilling a six inch hole through a tight formation does not mean that when the formation is fully exploited will not produce hydrogen sulphide.

It is not fair to say this has not been considered, Mr Cannock says. It was considered as far as the safety of the workforce at the wellhead, Professor Smythe relies.

It is fairly usual for hydrogen sulphide to be produced during gas production, Mr Cannock says. Professor Smythe replies that about 30% of gas fields produce hydrogen sulphide.

Permeability

Mr Cannock says IGas argues that the play is based on fracture permeability. This can only be confirmed by well testing, he suggests. The permeability of the Pentre Chert is not going to tell you anything about fracture permeability, he says.

Professor Smythe says you would need more samples from the wellbore or more wells to assess the permeability of the formation.

Contamination

Mr Cannock puts it to Professor Smythe there were no complaints on contamination when the well was drilled. Professor Smythe says there are deep boreholes around the site.

There have been no migration of hydrocarbons from the well, Mr Cannock says. Professor Smythe agrees.

200 wells have been drilled onshore with no contamination, Mr Cannock says. Professor Smythe does not agree. He says unconventional operations are a different matter.


9.32am Professor David Smythe, geology witness for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton

190122 epi 0930

Estelle Dehon, barrister for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton introduces her first witness, Professor David Smythe, on geology.

Professor Smythe is Emeritus Professor of Geophysics, University of Glasgow. He has worked for the British Geological Survey and Glasgow University and acted as a consultant to the oil industry.

Professor Smythe says he contests IGas’s interpretation of geology at Misson Springs in Nottinghamshire.

Definition of conventional and the Pentre Chert

Professor Smythe says IGas initially said the target formation at Ellesmere Port was a conventional hydrocarbon resource.

But he said it later changed its view, admitting that the target, the Pentre Chert embedded within the Carboniferous Bowland Shale Group, was unconventional.

Professor Smythe says there are no universally agreed definitions of the difference between conventional and unconventional hydrocarbon mineral extraction. But he says the permeability criterion of 0.1 millidarcy for the host rock is generally agreed to differentiate between the two extraction procedures.

The Appellant has not provided any data on the permeability of the Pentre Chert, but given what information is available it can be concluded that the permeability of the Chert is below 0.1 millidarcy.

This suggests that the Pentre Chert is an unconventional formation.

Professor Smythe says IGas is unjustified in calling the formation the Pentre Chert. The only difference between the Pentre Chert and shale is a slightly greater proportion of  quartz, he says.

It is not a proper chert. It is just a type of shale. It is a trick of the industry to avoid using the term shale.

Potential for contamination

Professor Smythe says computer modelling suggests that faults in producing zones can act as pathways to sensitive areas near the surface. This can take from a few days to a thousand years.

Ms Dehon for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and UPton asks how he know whether there are relevant faults. Professor Smythe says industry studies show the area is cut by many geological faults.

I asked IGas to provide for copies of the seismic surveys from 2014. I expected them to be far superior to studies going back to the mid 1980s.

It turned out to be event worse, which is disappointing. I have made the best of three seismic surveys in the vicinity of the well site.

Even though the data is poor, It is clear that the geology around the well site is cut by dozens of faults

The wellbore has already intersected one fault, Professor Smythe says. There could be more.

Acidisation and faults

Ms Dehon, for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton, says the Environment Agency does not consider IGas’s operation as matrix acidisation. She asks Professor Smythe how this changes his conclusions on faulting.

It makes no difference, he says. He adds that the EA’s view makes no difference to his conclusions on wellbore failure.

Natural fractures

IGas regards the Pentre Chert as naturally-fractured. Ms Dehon asks Professor Smythe how this affects his views on contamination pathways.

It is just another flavour of shale, Professor Smythe says. Calling it a Pentre Chert, does not remove it from shales, he adds.

“Fabrication of geological data”

Professor Smythe says the Ellesmere Port well logs do not correspond with a cross section of geology for the well site provided by IGas. He says the cross-section is more likely to be

It is a fabrication. It is fraudulent. This has been taken from an area further east, the Ince Marshes.

They have removed all the scales. They have cut off most of the primary aquifer, the Sherwood Sandstone, and they have put in EP1 on the right side of the diagram.

It is difficult to make much sense of this sketch, Professor Smythe says. This does match the well data. It is a fabrication and should not have been used in evidence, he says. He maintains the cross-section is from about 10 miles away at Ince Marshes.

IGas explanation for the incompatibility of the data is unacceptable, Professor Smythe says. You should use data as close to the wellbore as possible, he says.

“IGas does not admit to inventing imaginary geological data purporting to come from the wellsite.”

It is wrong of IGas to say that the Pentre Chert zone has no evidence of faulting, Professor says.

Proposed acidisation

Ms Dehon, for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton, asks why Professor Smythe was concerned that IGas proposed to use 95m3 acid.

Professor Smythe says a simple acid wash would require at most one-seventh of the volume of what IGas is proposing. The company is also using the double the concentration required.

He says the Pentre Chert zone would need only about 200m3. This makes him think that IGas is proposing to use matrix acidisation, Professor Smythe.

I would have no objection at all for an acid wash properly supervised – we cannot trust the appellant by its previous history. If that’s all they want to do – wash out the Pentre Chert – I  have no objection whatsoever.

Ms Dehon says the company also wants to squeeze the acid about 1m from the wellbore.

“Little confidence”

Professor Smythe says:

In conclusion, and bearing in mind the misleading and incomplete nature of many aspects of the Appellant’s case for flow testing the Chert, there is little confidence that the proposed development will not lead to contamination of the aquifer or escape of gas. Therefore the appeal should be dismissed.


9.30am Inquiry opens

The inspector, Brian Cook, opens the inquiry.

He says the site visit will be on Friday 1 March. It will take place if he thinks he needs it or if the parties want it.

On timing, he says re-examination of witnesses is taking longer than might be expected. If this continues, the inquiry will not finish by 28 February.


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

15 replies »

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/22/fracking-polluted-kirby-misperton-yorkshire

    “The cause was lorries supplying the well, opposition by campaigners and the resulting police operation.

    “The largest, most visible detectable impacts above the surface are on nitrogen oxides (NOx), from the use of compressors, generators and truck movements,” Lewis said.

    “And, strangely, in the case of Kirby Misperton, from policing, from [police] vehicles and protest camps. It’s a slightly unusual situation in that the activity of protesting itself is a large source of pollution.”

    He said protest tactics such as slow walking in front of lorries supplying the site would have driven up NOx levels, and police vehicles had been a “significant” source of the pollutants.”

  2. Catch up.

    That one has been sorted.

    Injunctions.

    Better still.

    Then cut out the particulates produced from open fires, as shown in the picture regarding Igas sites.

    Remove surplus journeys of 3 litre BMW diesels.

    Cut down on the surplus travel of the Prof. and Selenium Man.

    That must sound even better to you, and others.

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