Live news updates: N Yorks debates fracking buffer zones

KM8 from KM Claire Head1

Third Energy’s Kirby Misperton fracking site in North Yorkshire. Photo: Claire Head

This post has live updates from a meeting in North Yorkshire which could shape planning policy on fracking across the UK.

It will discuss whether there should be a local definition of fracking and 500m buffer zones between shale gas sites and homes.

Representatives from the biggest shale gas companies, including Ineos, Cuadrilla and IGas, are expected to argue that buffer zones would “sterilise” areas and “amount to a ban” on their operations. They also oppose the local fracking definition.

The policies, proposed last year by North Yorkshire County Council, City of York and the North Yorks Moors National Park, will be defended by planning officers, councillors, residents and campaign groups. They have also been supported by Thirsk and Malton MP, Kevin Hollinrake and were backed last year by the planning inspector, Elizabeth Ord.

The meeting, which is scheduled to continue tomorrow, is an extra session of the examination in public of the North Yorkshire Joint Minerals and Waste Plan.

It was called by Ms Ord after the government’s written ministerial statement in May 2018 said local plans should not set restrictions that would limit shale gas development. She had previously approved the policies.

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

5.38pm Hearing closes

The hearing reopens at 10am tomorrow (25 January 2019)

5.06pm Timings

The inspector, Elizabeth Ord, says she will consider the evidence from today in the light of the site visits she will undertake, likely to be in the next three weeks.

Scott Lyness, for the authorities, is to submit amended wording on the definition of fracking. The transcript of a court case on the definition is to be circulated. Ineos is to provide the basis of its interactive map on the effect of the 500m buffer zones.

Cllr John Clark, for Ryedale Liberals, says people have not had a chance to respond to the industry’s map and they should have. The inspector says in the interests of national justice people would have a chance to comment on the map.

Tomorrow the hearing will consider the safeguarding of potash and its impact on shale gas sites.

4.35pm Visual impact and light pollution

Sandy Tether, of Ineos, says any justification of the 500m buffer zone on the grounds of visual impact should be disregarded.

Scott Lyness, for the planning authorities, says visual impact is considered as part of the policy He says the light spill map may not show the impact of lighting on people living further away.

Mr Lyness says the fracking areas are low lying and is one of the UK’s dark sky areas. 500m buffer zones are appropriate when compared with those for wind turbines. Drill rigs can be up to 60-70m. They are substantial structures and the precautionary principle is justified.

Ester Priestley, for City of York Council, says the degree of visual harm is related to the duration of the site operation. It is unlikely that topography or vegetation will provide adequate mitigation on visual impact or light pollution. Drill right heights could be reduced, but this may mean drilling takes longer. Light spill can be controlled to prevent spill but this does not stop the light source or glow. There is also potential for glow above the flares. Parts of North Yorkshire are among the country’s darkest areas, she says.

Scott Lyness, for the authorities, says the inspector should also consider visual impact and light pollution, even though less time has been spent on this.

Cllr John Clark, for Ryedale Liberals, says there are huge concerns about health impacts of fracking.

Do we really want to experiment with this industry close to homes. We need to have to a figure. I don’t think the industry would want to be involved in something that would go wrong.

Cllr Clark says he is not going to the stake over 50m. But he says he feels 500m is about right.

Jack Parker, for Cllr Paul Andrews, says the original wording for  500m buffer “except in exceptional circumstances” was sound and should be used.

There would be great consternation if there were no buffer.

A dwelling at 510m is entitled to the same level of protection. A 500m buffer applies a greater deal of focus and attention. Within that it is unlikely that the industry will be able to deliver the level of mitigation required.

500m applies to wind turbines and other installations, he says.

It is not unusual. It is justified on the evidence you have heard. The concern of local residents in an emerging industry is a matter which deserves and requires to be recognised in the local plan process.

If the buffer were removed it would be a significant change that would need to be appraised, Mr Parker says.

Gordon Steele, for the industry, says this is a site-by-site analysis. A 500m buffers are not needed. Not one word has justified a 500m buffer. These issues will be addressed on a site-by-site. 500m is a complete red herring and has not been justified.  He says there is no comparison between wind turbines with what is proposed here.

Ken Cronin, for the industry, says companies have given a lot of energy that should give comfort to local communities and councils. He says he is troubled about what additional is expected of the industry in the 500m.

What concerns me, our role as developers is to maximise oil and gas recovery. The imposition of a 500m buffer zones where schemes are unlikely to be approved means they will be instantly discouraged from doing activity in that area. That would be against government policy which is to encourage this activity.

Scott Lyness, for the authorities, says it cannot be right to say a policy cannot focus on a particular area within which a developer would be expected to demonstrate particular concerns. This is what this policy intends to do.

We have produced evidence of why 500m is appropriate for particular focus.

We have recognised the concerns of residents – the closer to sensitive receptors the greater focus is needed.

Proposals will be considered on a site by site basis. If developers can robustly show they can meet the concerns there is no reason why they should be deterred.

Government policy requires planners to uphold the high standards of environmental protection.

4.30pm Hearing resumes

4.20pm Break

The hearing resumes at 4.30pm

4pm Inspector questions on the 500m buffer

Elizabeth Ord, the inspector, asks the planning authorities what will be different in the 500m buffer zone than outside.

Scott Lyness, for the authorities, says permission could be granted within the 500m zone. The purpose of the policy is that within the zone you are in a sensitive area and more data or more modelling may be required. Developers may be expected to do more work, with more scrutiny.

Ms Ord says the buffer needs more explanation on what it means.

Gordon Steele, for the industry, says Mr Lyness acknowledges that a different approach would be taken inside and outside the buffer zone. We are going to have to satisfy the authority anywhere – why should there be a higher level for a distance beyond 500m? He says the industry does not accept there were 28 noise breaches at the Kirby Misperton site – there is a “perfectly innocent explanation” he says.

Simon Stephenson, for the industry, says the coiled tubing tower would not generate noise at 25m above the ground. He says storms damaged noise panels at Kirby Misperton.

Alan Linn, for Third Energy, says the company recorded noise levels at the Kirby Misperton site. The vast majority of what were seen as breaches were when the rain and wind affected the microphones. We had two breaches relating to the storm, generators and truck movements, he says. There have been no complaints about noise, he adds.

Tim Thornton, Ryedale Liberals, says the 500m buffer are not just about noise. But he says he checked with Ryedale District Council’s environmental health officer. He did not recall any breaches being reported. He says the reporting route is to North Yorkshire County Council, which did not remember any reported breaches. We have seen higher than expected noise levels 800m from the site.

Colin Merritt, South Hambleton villages, says the parish councils would want to see local planning input and scrutiny. There should be some threshold, he says. If you want to set the threshold at zero you need to justify it.

3.40pm Other responses to industry noise mitigation

Jack Parker, for Cllr Paul Andrews, says Springs Road night time noise limit was 42db – not a particularly low limit. He says, for noise, fracking is different to drilling. This is new and there is uncertainty that justifies a buffer approach.

He says most of the rigs referred to in industry evidence do not meet noise limits.

Once you are getting to a place in having to erect a 10m barrier to meet noise levels you are having unacceptable visual impacts.

Cllr Paul Andrews says the evidence on noise mitigation given by the industry appears to be contradictory. He quotes: significant modifications are needed to reduce noise from the rig. No night-time working would prolong the drilling period, he add from the industry evidence. He says the noise barrier at KM8 in Kirby Misperton had a “terrible impact” on the landscape.

“We are talking about a continual period of drilling of more than 20 years. We have to balance the interests of the industry against residents. You can only do that if you give them both some certainties. I don’t think 500m is far enough.”

Cllr John Clark, for Ryedale Liberals, likens the buffer to the effect of front gardens on reducing air pollution from roads. He says the industry has said it is experienced and it will work properly. But at Kirby Misperton, he says, there 15 breaches in two-and-a-half weeks.

These are figures from the drilling company. Why were there that number of breaches when there had been mitigation. You don’t know what mitigation will be needed. If KM8 is anything to go by the the mitigation needs to be more.

He says the 500m is a sensible compromise for five years and then the buffer can be revisited.

3.22pm Planning authorities respond on industry noise mitigation

Scott Lyness, for the planning authorities, says fracking significantly increases noise levels on a site over conventional drilling based on industry figures with take account of mitigation.

He says:

“When you reach 42db, that is well over 20db background measured by the council.

“In those circumstances that is perfectly reasonable to say there will be difficulties for operators to demonstrate acceptable noise levels. There could be drilling and fracking on a site, which has not been taken into account.”

Mr Lyness mitigation measures may gain a reduction of 5db. That is not a game changer, he says. Best to adopt a buffer for five years, allow mitigation to develop and then review the policy.

Vicky Perkins, of North Yorkshire County Council, says drilling would require 40-50m rigs, with higher noise levels. The coiled tubing tower used in fracking would be at 25m and that would be a noise generators. Not all fracking equipment is at ground levels, she says. Ms Perkins says she has not seen a top drive of the type mentioned by the industry. Equipment proposed in a planning application is not always available when the site is developed.

Ms Perkins refers to a list of sites put forward by the industry. Only Preston New Road has fracking permission. Many of the sites are not operational and some are either oil or conventional sites, she says. The list showed the noise permitted, not the actually noise that resulted, she says.

2.51pm Industry case on mitigation

pnr 181225 Ros Wills4

Coiled tubing tower at Preston New Road, 25 December 2018. Photo: Ros Wills

Gordon Steele, for the oil and gas industry, says noise levels must be set to protect properties, whether it is more or less than 500m.

It is for the industry to meet the noise limits, he says. There are a plethora of measures to mitigate noise, he says.

Noise consultant, Simon Stephenson, tells the hearing the choice of rig and top drive will affect noise limits. At Misson Springs, noise limits of 42db have been met at 120m from the site, he says.

The inspector, Elizabeth Ord, says the buffer zone would raise the bar for anyone who wants to operate there. Within that 500m what is the likelihood you would meet the noise limits?, she asks.

Mr Stephenson says you need to look at a case by case basis. He says it is common place to deal with oil and gas sites within 500m. They can and have frequently operated in quiet rural areas within less than 500m of properties.

Ms Ord asks:

are noise levels from conventional oil and gas significantly different to hydraulic fracturing.

Essentially no, says Mr Stephenson. Fracking uses high-powered pumps, he says. They are not fundamentally different from any other powerful machinery.

Mitigation is being developed, he says, because there are few fracking pumps in the UK. There could even be alternative ways to power the pumps, he says.

At the exploration stage, the main source of noise is the rig, mud pumps which can be enclosed, and the top drive he says. The top drive is the highest to mitigate against because it is high up in the air. There is no top drive during fracking, he adds.

Mr Stephenson says the challenges in mitigating the noise from fracking is easier because the noise source is at ground level.

He says it is commonplace to find oil and gas sites within 500m of properties. It must be possible to mitigate noise because it has been done so often. Mr Stephenson says some of the techniques may be new but the equipment is “pretty much the same stuff”.

Steve Fraser, another noise consultant for the oil and gas industry, says there is a professional discussion between the planners and the acoustic consultants about what can be achieved and how the plant noise can be mitigated.

He predicts that noise levels of oil and gas equipment will fall as mineral planning authorities will require higher standards.

Sandy Tether, for Ineos, asks whether the authorities expect the companies to go to all the available areas to prove that they cannot work there. That is unreasonable.

Gordon Steele QC, for the industry, says a 500m buffer zone would restrict shale gas development, which is unjustified, and that puts it beyond government policy.

2.50pm Industry response on noise

Gordon Steele, for the oil and gas industry, says there were not breaches at the Kirby Misperton site.

2.31pm Comments on industry case

180310 KM Eddie Thornton 1

Jack Parker, for Cllr Paul Andrews, says the industry’s interpretation of national planning policy guidance on noise is wrong.

The guidance says it is unacceptable above 55db during the day or above 42db at night. Coming below that does not make it acceptable, he says.

The company’s argument that background levels is irrelevant was rejected during the Preston New Road appeal, Mr Parker says. The inspector for that appeal, supported by the Secretary of State, said the level should be 39db at night.

Low background noise levels would justify, if not require, noise limits lower than 42db at night, Mr Parker says.

The industry was selective in quoting the Bramleymoor Lane appeal decision, Mr Parker says. The inspector effectively agrees with the Preston New Road decision and said background noise levels were relevant. 42db was justified in that case because drilling was for 3 months, Mr Parker says, rather than 14 months at Preston New Road.

Kit Bennett, from York, says what has happened at sites around the country, at Kirby Misperton and elsewhere, should not set policy for the future. He says Kirby Misperton exceeded noise levels. He says multiple drilling on one and other sites should be taken into account. He says:

We are facing a change from a quiet area to a more industrialised area.

Cllr John Clark, for Ryedale Liberals, says there were 28 breaches at a property 280m from Kirby Misperton and just 15 breaches at a property further away. You need to have a limit, you have to draw a line somewhere. He says the buffer could be moved after five years based on evidence.

Peter Cox, South Hambleton villages, says his group adopts authorities’ approach. He says the industry’s argument against 500m was torpedoed by the submission that Preston New Road’s well was drilled 800m.

Mr Cox again invites the inspector to see the local topography.

See for yourself the effect of 500m from the high ground within the AONB to the low ground outside it and vice versa.

It is not just the confines of the national park and AONB it is their setting.

Jim Tucker, of Frack Free Ryedale, says noise limits were exceeded at the Third Energy KM8 site. There is little remedy

I would urge the precautionary principle is adopted. Over time, if there is a strong evidence base, if noise levels at night are reduced to a minimum then the 500m might be reviewed.

2.07pm Planning authority case for buffer zones

Scott Lyness, QC for the planning authorities, says the written ministerial statement (WMS makes no changes to the policy on shale gas. That is also the position of government, Mr Lyness says.

The WMS was a restatement of existing policy. There is nothing in the WMS that should change anything that was agreed before it was made, Mr Lyness says.

Issues already agreed should not be revisited because of something in the WMS, Mr Lyness says.

We have always accepted that applications must be decided on a site by site basis.

There is nothing in the policy that prevents individual circumstances being taken into account.

The policy does not contain prescriptive restrictions.

There is no ban in the 500m zone.

Policy M17 on the buffer zone allows developers to demonstrate that shale gas sites would be acceptable in 500m, he says.

There is a proper justification for the buffer zone, Mr Lyness says.

On any reading of the documentation, he says, the justification is based on noise and light pollution.

The 500m buffer zone is not a ban or a prescriptive threshold, he repeats. He says there will just be greater scrutiny of any proposals within 500m.

Noise limits

Mr Lyness, for the authorities, says they have focussed on background levels because of the characteristics of the area. One cannot move to an acceptable level of 55 decibels, just because it is mentioned in the minerals planning guidance.

The industry assumes you can apply 55db as an acceptable threshold without looking at background levels.

The authorities argue that once you exceed 10db increase over background levels you are moving into territory where you will find it more difficult to get planning permission.

This is the flaw in the industry’s approach. It assumes at 55db will be an acceptable  limit for daytime noise.  On industry figures, you are looking at increases of 30db at night and 16db at night.

The vast majority of sites in a industry list submitted to the hearing are conventional sites where there is no fracking, Mr Lyness says.

He says the separation zones are designed to reassure local communities. Shale gas development is at an early stage and the minerals plan takes a cautious approach on the buffer size and location.

This gives developers guidance and it is consistent with government policy, Mr Lyness says.

Anthony Dean, a noise specialist for the authorities, defends using a low noise level of 21db. They say the starting point for their argument is the precautionary principle. The authorities looked at what noise levels would be within different widths of buffer zone.

Mr Dean says:

We have low background noise levels across the district. Day and nighttime background levels are very low. They are not just the odd hour.

Mr Dean says national policy guidance is suggesting limits of 10db above background level or up to 55db.

It is about trying to protect. It is providing guidance to the industry where it can explore.

1.53pm Industry on noise

pnr 180727 Ros Wills 4

Rig construction, Preston New Road, 27 July 2018. Photo: Ros Wills

Simon Stephenson, a noise consultant for the oil and gas industry, says the planning authorities have based their case on the single lowest noise level at the quietest location. He says:

That is is not representative. It is fundamentally wrong.

Noise levels will vary on a site-by-site basis, Simon Stephenson says. Only two of the locations chosen by the authorities are in PEDL licences.

1.59pm Industry case – appeal decisions

Steve Fraser, a noise consultant, represented the oil and gas industry at appeal hearings on Ineos shale gas schemes at Harthill and Bramleymoor Lane.

He tells the hearing the key issue at night is to protect against sleep disturbance. The inspector at Bramleymoor Lane agreed that a limit of 42db would protect against sleep disturbance and health impacts.

Mr Fraser says the approach adopted by the mineral planning authorities is “acoustically illiterate”. The aim is to find a typical level, not the lowest.

He says a county-wide approach is contrary to government guidance.

1.50pm Hearing resumes

1.05pm Break

The hearing resumes at 1.50pm

12.45pm Industry case against 500m buffer zones

Gordon Steele, for the industry, says the National Planning Policy Framework requires local plans to be consistent with government policy. It requires

policies should be underpinned by relevant and up-to-date evidence. This should be adequate and proportionate, focused tightly on supporting and justifying the policies concerned, and take into account relevant market signals.

He says the authorities justify the buffer zones based on noise levels. They set a day-time noise limit of 31dB and 30dB at night as justification of the 500m, he says.

The justification for the 500m is what is required to meet those noise limits.

Mr Steele says minerals planning guidance says:

Where it will be difficult not to exceed the background level by more than 10dB(A) without imposing unreasonable burdens on the mineral operator, the limit set should be as near that level as practicable.

This is the opposite of what the authorities are say, he says. They have made an error.

On night time levels, the guidance says:

For any operations during the period 22.00 – 07.00 noise limits should be set to reduce to a minimum any adverse impacts, without imposing unreasonable burdens on the mineral operator.

He says background levels are not relevant at night, he says.

The authorities fail to consider the unreasonable burden test or the evening position. It is contrary to minerals planning guidance, he says.

The authorities have also failed to consider minerals planning guidance which allows noise up to 70dB if it is for up to eight weeks in a year.

The policy is inconsistent with national policy and guidance, Mr Steele says. He says there are multiple sites where levels have been consented at levels higher than those proposed by the authorities. At these sites, nighttime noise has often been set at 42dB.

Mr Steele says:

It is utterly unreasonable for the authorities to suggest 30dB.

Mr Steele says asks whether the buffer is 500m from the noise source or the red line site boundary. That is not set and is a failure of this policy that could lead to serious disagreement, he says.

He says the policy talks about adverse impacts – which is impossible. We should be talking about unacceptable adverse impact, he says.

12.42pm Written ministerial statement

After the April 2018 session of the examination in public agreed buffer zones, the government issued a written ministerial statement in May 2018. This said:

The Government expects Mineral Planning Authorities to give great weight to the benefits of mineral extraction, including to the economy. This includes shale gas exploration and extraction.

Mineral Plans should reflect that minerals resources can only be worked where they are found, and applications must be assessed on a site by site basis and having regard to their context.

Plans should not set restrictions or thresholds across their plan area that limit shale development without proper justification.

12.23pm Questions to industry

The Green Party asks whether the company left the site because of the increasing tremors. Nick Mace, for Cuadrilla, says the analysis takes time because it is complex.

Jack Parker, for Cllr Andrews, asks whether Cuadrilla would bring rigs back onsite to drill two more wells. Potentially, says Nick Mace, for the company. He says Cuadrilla had learned a lot and would be optimising drilling time in future.

Asked how many wells the company proposed to drill at Preston New Road, Mr Mace says it is not possible to say. Pushed on the number, Nick Mace says 10-15 wells.

John Clark, for Ryedale Liberals, asks who monitors sound levels at the nearest receptor and whether sound limits were breached. Nick Mace, for Cuadrilla, says the company monitors the noise levels but the county council has access to the data. Nick Mace says he has not received a single letter about of breaches of noise limits. John Clark says that was not his question. Mr Mace says the noise levels in the planning permission were unattainable because the background noise from the road was breaching those limits. The company developed a model on the source of noise, he says. We have operated in a compliant manner, Nick Mace says. John Clark says vast amounts of North Yorkshire have very low background noise. Nick Mace says there is an option of mobile monitoring but this has not been requested.

Cllr Paul Andrews refers to comments by John Dewar that sites could accommodate up to 50 wells. Nick Mace, of Cuadrilla, says his information is based on Lancashire, not North Yorkshire. Cllr Andrews says 20 wells per site could amount to eight years of drilling and fracking. Nick Mace says exploration timings will not apply in the production phase. Cllr Andrews says Ineos has suggested a 15-20 year lifecycle of a site. Nick Mace agrees a 20 year life of Preston New Road.

Scott Lyness, barrister for the mineral planning authorities, says Cuadrilla warned that drilling could take longer original estimates and fracking could need 2 months.

Gordon Steele, for the industry, says the questions have been irrelevant to the issue of the 500m buffer zones.

12.11pm Industry images

Nick Mace, for Cuadrilla, shows images to the inquiry of the Preston New Road.

We can’t show you the images because photography is not allowed in the hearing

Picture 1: Aerial image showing empty pad at Preston New Roadafter construction with no equipment.

Picture 2: Aerial image of Preston New Road with drilling rig in place and acoustic screen

Picture 3: Side aerial view of Preston New Road with drilling rig in place.

Picture 4: Side aerial view of Preston New Road during fracking stage with sand silos, water tanks, pumps, coiled tubing tower, enclosed flares.

Picture 5: Side view from ground of fracking phase

Picture 6: long distance aerial view of well-testing phase

Site construction began in January 2017. Equipment was moved off-site in December 2018.

Nick Mace, for Cuadrilla, says the nearest “sensitive receptor” is 280m from the site. Construction at Preston New Road took 6-8 months. Exploratory drilling took 3-4 months per well. Hydraulic fracturing took 6 weeks.  Mr Mace says the operation took 12-18 months.

12.10pm Hearing resumes

11.55am Break

The hearing resumes at 12.10pm

10.52am Presentation of interactive map

We can’t show you the map because photographs are not allowed in the hearing and the industry has not provided paper copies

Steve Thompsett, of the industry body, UK Onshore Oil and Gas, shows a map produced by the industry of the effect of 500m buffer zones.

He says the map shows onshore oil and gas licences (PEDLs), mineral planning authorities and settlements. It then applies the 500m buffer zones to homes.

The map shows where land would be available for fracking by excluding the buffer zone of 500m around homes and the national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. Mr Thompsett says:

20-25% of PEDL licences are available outside those areas.

He says other sensitive receptors, such as schools and hospitals are not included on the map. It also excludes nature reserves, he says.

Peter Cox, South Hambleton villages, asks the industry to demonstrate the impact of directional drilling of 1-2.5km.

Gordon Steele, for the industry,  says if the 500m zone is in place, the exploratory drilling has to start from 500m from homes. Any further drilling has to be from that point. He says directional drilling would not shrink the excluded areas.

Scott Lyness, for the authorities, says directional drilling is relevant. He says the authorities would be prepared to demonstrate this.

Ken Cronin, for the industry, says 2.5km directional drilling is possible but this depends on the geology. Faults may make the lateral well shorter. The map shows 500m around every single house. He says the industry can’t show the effect of 2.5km lateral drilling because the industry doesn’t know where the gas is – that is the point of exploration.  He says the initial exploration well will always be vertical.

Elizabeth Ord, the inspector, says a theoretical 2.5km could be produced. Mr Cronin says all the other conditions should then also be considered, including access to sites and water.

Peter Cox, South Hambleton villages, asks how many vertical wells are needed to establish whether production is viable. Ken Cronin, for the industry, says this is difficult to assess, depending on geology and the operators’ planning. Mr Cox asks:

Are there not plans, provisionally?

Jack Parker, for Cllr Paul Andrews, says it does not show the extent of gas in the plan area. He says the Preston New Road shale gas operation included horizontal wells as part of the exploratory phase. It is not the case that exploration has only vertical wells, he says. The inspector asks the industry to explain.

Nick Mace, for Cuadrilla, says prior to Preston New Road it drilled vertical wells. Data from these offset wells was needed before drilling lateral. Scott Lyness, for the authorities, says companies do drill laterally during exploration.

Vicky Perkin, for North Yorkshire County Council, says exploratory wells can be deviated, horizontal or vertical.

John Clark, Ryedale Liberals, says he is surprised that there is as much available land as there is. The industry had accused the authorities of sterilising the area.

He says:

The industry should be able to work out how many sites there could be in the available land.

He asks:

how many sites there are each PEDL area. If you haven’t got that figure I don’t understand how you can say we have sterilised the area.

Gordon Steele, for the industry, it is not possible to say how many sites could be accommodated in the available area. He says 80% of the area is not available or sterilised.

Cllr Clark says the map shows the 500m buffer is not “sterilising”.

Ken Cronin confirms it is impossible to say how many vertical wells would be drilled.

Sandy Tether, for Ineos, says the buffer allows only 20% of the land to be looked at and this is a major problem.

Matthew Dale Harris, for Friends of the Earth, says the buffer zone is not an absolute exclusion and the argument that only 20% of land is available for drilling is simply wrong.

Colin Merrtitt, for South Hambleton villages, says 20% is quite a large area for sampling. He says he is surprised that the industry does not think this is enough.

David Davis, of Frack Free Ryedale, says it has produced a map using the buffer zones which has identified areas available for drilling, which includes two sites. Jim Tucker, for the group, says the hearing has not considered the role of 3d seismic surveys.

Tom Pickering, of Ineos, says 3d survey allows you to see geology and faults. It shows the layers that contain petroleum and where to place lateral wells. He says the site selection process is complex and also considers issues such as road networks and ecology.

Cllr Paul Andrews says the plan considers the full production process, possibly in place for 25 years, not just exploration.

Chris France, of the North Yorkshire mineral planning authorities, says the 80% so-called exclusion is misleading. He says it includes protected areas, which comprise the companies chose to apply for PEDL licences. The region is well-endowed with high value landscapes. The authorities are applying restraint, rather than prohibition.

Scott Lyness, QC, for the authorities, says the map is based on a false premise – that the authorities are seeking to prohibit development in the 500m buffer zone. The policy does not seek this, he says.

20-25% availability does not represent sterilisation particularly considering the high-quality

There are flaws in the model. We would want to see the methodology.

It doesn’t show the extent of the impact of horizontal drilling.

The figure of 25% is misleading. It should be given very little weight. They have failed to show the potential underground access, even if you were to take this model at face value.

The model should show a 2.5km radius from the available areas. We would like to have access to the data used and compare with our own model.

It is based on a false premise and is misleading.

Mr Steele, for the industry, says the map is accurate and precise for what it shows and is not misleading at all.

‘Elizabeth Ord accepts the map is accurate but she says she accepts what the authorities are saying.

10.31am Site visit

The inspector, Elizabeth Ord, says it will be useful to go to an active fracking site, with representatives of the industry, authorities and communities. She asks whether Cuadrilla would allow her and the representatives to see the Preston New Road site when it is functioning.

Gordon Steele, for the industry, says Cuadrilla will allow a visit but the first phase of fracking has finished. He says he cannot say when fracking will resume. He says there are photographs of different phases of the development.

Ms Ord says she would like the photographs to be shown but she would still like to go to the site with representatives of the argument.

Scott Lyness, for the planning authorities, asks when Cuadrilla would begin fracking again. Mr Steele says he can’t say. He recommends the IGas site at Springs Road, Nottinghamshire, where drilling has just begun. This is operating 120m from a site of special scientific interest, where noise limits have been set lower than usual because of breeding owls. Scott Lyness says Springs Road is exploratory drilling, not fracking.

Ms Ord says she would like to see both exploratory drilling and fracking. Both would be very useful, she says. She asks the industry to put in writing the significance of Springs Road and Preston New Road. Mr Lyness says any site visit should be made in an appropriate context and the authorities should be able to comment on the industry’s submission.

Peter Cox, South Hambleton villages, said his group had invited the inspector to take part in a site visit to his area to look at vertical landscaping. Ms Ord says she has not seen the Kirby Misperton site. Mr Cox invites the inspector to look at the South Hambleton area to appreciate the distance of the views and the surrounding hills, rather than rely on maps. Mr Steele invites the inspector to visit Third Energy’s Kirby Misperton site.

10.30am Documents

The inspector, Elizabeth Ord, says the issue of potash safeguarding will be considered on Friday. She says an Ineos briefing is available online.

10.09am Ruling in the Andrews case

The session hears that the formal judge’s written ruling has just been published in a judicial review brought by Cllr Paul Andrews on the government definition of fracking.

The industry barrister, Gordon Steele QC, has a copy but no one else in the room, including Cllr Andrews, has not seen it.

Cllr Andrews says his solicitor offered to pay for a transcript of the case.

I am utterly shocked that the document had been sent first to the industry but not to other participants in the case.

The inspector says she will allow time for people to read the ruling.

10.05am Interactive map

The inspector, Elizabeth Ord, says the session will first deal with an interactive map produced by the industry on the impact of 500m buffer zones in N Yorkshire. This has not been distributed in advance, despite a request by Ms Ord.

Gordon Steele QC, barrister for the onshore oil and gas industry, says this may not be possible.

The inspector says time should be given for people to respond to the map. She asks Mr Steele to explain why the map has not been distributed in advance. She says the map should be presented at the hearing and outside and paper copies should be supplied. Mr Steele says screenshots could be provided and people could ask for access after the hearing.

Peter Cox, South Hambleton villages, asks whether there is a 1:25,000 scale version of the industry map. He also asks whether availability flexibility of land for drilling is shown on the map.

Gordon Steele, for the industry, says he can’t answer the scale question. He says he doesn’t mean what flexibility of land availability means. Mr Cox says this means directional drilling.

Inspector, Elizabeth Ord, asks about the practical length of directional drilling. Mr Steele says it is practical to drill up to 1.5km but this depends on the geology.

Scott Lyness QC, barrister for the mineral planning authorities, says a previous hearing was told directional drilling could be up to 2.5km.

Cllr John Clark, Ryedale Liberals, confirms the evidence of 2.5km distance. He says there were deadlines for submissions to the inspector. He says he is confused about the interactive map. Why hasn’t your office received it?, he asks. Why do the rest of us have to meet your deadlines?

Gordon Steele, for the industry, tells the inspector:

It is copyright and this has been fully explained to your office

Ms Ord says she will take representations after the showing of the map.

Cllr Clark asks

if the map relates to the 500m, how can we debate this without knowing this cornerstone of the industry’s argument?


10am Examination in public reopens

The inspector, Elizabeth Ord, re-opens the examination in public.

Ms Ord says the meeting has been called because government policy has changed slightly that affects the issue of buffer zones and definition of fracking.

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

13 replies »

  1. I am happy to forward my slides from the APPG on Shale Gas in June (on the impacts on communities, which include details of site equipment, images of PNR. KM and HGV traffic. tbh it is only by going onsite that you really appreciate the sheer scale of the operation.

  2. “Construction at Preston New Road took 6-8 months. Exploratory drilling took 3-4 months per well. Hydraulic fracturing took 6 weeks. Mr Mace says the operation took 12-18 months.”

    …but it started early January 2017 and equipment still being moved early January 2019 so 2 years not 12- 18 months as Mr Mace is claiming here.

  3. One has to ask what sort of heavy industrial process should be permitted to operate hundreds of sites across the English countryside and that can’t manage to operate at least 500m from where people live? The answer is none.

    • Martin. I live in a rural area surrounded by farms. None that I know bear any resemblance to a fracking site and the disruption it brings. Having spent the last two years at the roadside at PNR and seen how alien industrialisation such as this is to the surrounding countryside, I can tell you if you believe an area with a fracking site every couple of miles, which is what Francis Egan has envisaged for us, is no worse than an agricultural landscape, you need to go to Specsavers.

  4. Interesting from Mr. Mace-10-15 at PNR??!!

    Jack-trust your calculator is able to deal with the extra workload to establish the funds for the locals and the community. I know it was having difficulty with 4, but when you get there just multiply by 3 and that will be close enough.

  5. What’s particularly worrying about the fracking industry niggling about acceptable levels of noise and light, about whether a buffer area of 500 m from residential areas, etc. will facilitate a sizeable enough profit, in the context of the Joint authorities efforts in the MWJP to protect their population and environment, is that it’s all taking place against the background of retreating Antarctic glaciers thought to be stable, huge losses in the vast Greenland ice sheet, coral die off as sea levels warm and rise. This industry continues to act as though none of this was happening, or at least to behave as though it had nothing to do with global warming and climate change.

      • Agreed – shut down the demand and the supply goes away, the planet is saved. But unfortunately all the forecasts show increasing fossil fuel demand for many years to come and increasing CO2. A bit like the land grab in South Africa. You would have thought that they would have seen what this can do to a country by looking at the Zimbabwe model. But human nature is such that short termism is predominant.

        • As you say human nature is such that short termism is predominant. Unfortunately it’s nature that’s truly predominant and nature will soon be demonstrating the consequences of our greed and stupidity. We are just a speck in time on this earth and it’s looking ever more likely that our time will soon be up.

          [Typo corrected at poster’s request]

Add a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s