A public inquiry which opens tomorrow into oil plans in north Lincolnshire could see the first examination of the government moratorium on fracking.
Egdon Resources is seeking permission to use a form of acid fracking to increase oil production at the Wressle site near Scunthorpe.
Until two days ago, the inquiry had been expected to be a fairly one-sided event.
North Lincolnshire Council withdrew its case in July, despite previously voting unanimously against the scheme.
Residents and campaign organisations have continued to oppose the application but do not have a formal role in the hearing.
So the government’s moratorium announcement, confirmed in a written statement today, may complicate the inquiry, currently scheduled for six days.
The business secretary, Andrea Leadsom, said the government would “take a presumption against issuing any further hydraulic fracturing consents”.
She said the industry regulator, the Oil & Gas Authority (OGA), could not be sure that fracking would not cause unacceptable levels of seismicity following the series of tremors from Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site. She said:
“The OGA are therefore unlikely to approve future hydraulic fracture plans unless new evidence is presented”.
The Wressle well was drilled into sandstone, rather than shale, and there are no plans for high volume hydraulic fracturing.
One of the investors in the site, Union Jack Oil, said today the government’s change of policy on fracking would have no impact on its operations:
“The company has no intent to engage in hydraulic fracturing operations in England, neither now nor in the future”.
But Egdon Resources has said it wants to use a proppant squeeze to improve the flow of oil at Wressle.
This process injects a solution of hydrofluoric acid under pressure into the surrounding rocks and, in this case, uses ceramic beads to hold open fractures.
A revision of the environmental permit for the Wressle site has 27 references to hydraulic fracturing. WRESSLE Environment Agency Permit Consolidation and Variation
Before work could start, Egdon Resources must submit a hydraulic fracturing plan for approval to the Environment Agency and the Oil & Gas Authority.
DrillOrDrop asked the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy how the new policy would affect sites like Wressle. We have not received a response.
This is the second inquiry into oil production at Wressle. The previous hearing, held almost exactly two years ago, heard that if the plans were approved this would be the first use of proppant squeeze onshore in the UK.
The inquiry is due to open at 10am tomorrow (Tuesday 5 November) at the Hobbies Centre, Wesley Road, Scunthorpe DN16 1SA.
It will be chaired by the planning inspector, Phillip Ware. Egdon Resources has appointed Hereward Phillpot QC to present its case.
Hearings are due on Wednesday 6 November-Friday 8 November and Tuesday 12 November-Wednesday 13 November 2019.
- The inspector at a public inquiry into Ineos shale gas plans at Woodsetts in south Yorkshire has asked the parties to submit comments on the moratorium by 12 November 2019.