The government’s moratorium on fracking will not affect plans to enhance oil and gas production in north Lincolnshire, Egdon Resources said today.
Speaking on the final day of a public inquiry, the company’s barrister, Hereward Phillpot QC said the recent ministerial statement did not apply to proposals to stimulate the well at Wressle:
“No hydraulic fracturing consent is required in this case and hence the government’s decision in relation to such consents does not affect this scheme.”
He said the proppant squeeze planned at Wressle was “different in both the scale and purpose from associated hydraulic fracturing”. The resulting fracture would be “much more limited”, he said.
But opponents of the company’s proposals said the inquiry had revealed that Egdon planned to use a form of hydraulic fracturing and that the operation required a hydraulic fracturing plan.
Campaigner Elizabeth Williams was not allowed to sum up her case against the company. But speaking after the close of the inquiry she said:
“I have argued at every stage that what Egdon is proposing is hydraulic fracturing for conventional oil and, as such, it should be defined as associated hydraulic fracturing.
“At the very least we have persuaded the company to disclose that what it is intending is something like an acid frack and that they are using well stimulation with a form of hydraulic fracturing.
“Egdon has become more explicit in its responses and in its summing up. The company’s QC has referred to acid squeeze and hydraulic fracturing. So at the very least we have brought the facts out into the open.
“This is by no means small scale and conventional.”
The inquiry, chaired by planning inspector Phillip Ware, heard that Egdon sought permission for 15 years of oil and gas production at the site near Scunthorpe.
The company was appealing against a unanimous refusal of planning permission in November 2018 by North Lincolnshire Council.
Four months ago, the council dropped its objections and withdrew its case against the company. The only challenge to the proposals at the three-day inquiry was from residents and campaigners.
In his closing statement, Mr Phillpot said none of the objections they raised could “properly be said to justify the refusal of planning permission”.
He said Egdon and the council agreed that the proposed development was acceptable. There would be “substantial benefits” from the scheme, he said. Any residual adverse effects would not be significant and could be controlled or mitigated by conditions.
A new impermeable liner would be laid at the site to address concerns raised by the inspector at a previous inquiry into the proposals two years ago, Mr Phillpot said.
“A good deal of the opposition is directed at what are regarded by objectors as short-comings in current government policy and a desire for there to be changes to the regulatory framework that govern the proposed development.”
He said the proposals met both local and national planning policy. He dismissed concerns about earth tremors, air pollution and climate change.
Mr Phillpot said:
“There is no evidence that production of oil as a result of the proposed development would lead to a net increase in the consumption of hydrocarbons and overall emissions of greenhouse gases.
“Domestic production does not increase overall emissions but is likely to reduce them and should properly be regarded as a small but important part of a more sustainable low carbon future.”
He described objections as “ill-founded, irrelevant and/or not capable of justifying the refusal of planning permission.”
He also criticised members of the public, who he described as “seasoned objectors”, for not submitting advance copies of their statements to the inquiry.
Ms Williams said:
“We are profoundly disappointed that we have not had the chance to sum up but I can genuinely say that the inspector has given us a fair and thorough hearing at every stage.
“Egdon’s QC’s reference to “seasoned objectors” goes nowhere close to acknowledging the vast amount of hard work involved in challenging the company’s proposals. It has been a long highly stressful process. We do this not because we enjoy it but as a public duty.”
Andrew McLeod, another speaker at the inquiry, said:
” Egdon’s QC complains that we are “seasoned objectors” and that we didn’t (we weren’t asked to!) submit our evidence ahead of the inquiry.
“As if either of these things detract from the quality and substance of our evidence, and as if the odds were not already stacked heavily in Egdon’s favour by the extremely regrettable decision of North Lincolnshire Council to withdraw their case and not even try to protect the environment and the well-being of future generations, as they had so steadfastly done on all previous occasions when they considered this unwanted and unnecessary proposal.”
Jean Turner, who also made a statement to the inquiry, said:
“The previous inquiry led to numerous changes following the many errors and omissions that had been highlighted.
“At this inquiry, I drew attention to risk that flaring up to 10 tonnes a day for 15 years will further escalate the high reported levels of pollution that already existing, especially particulates PM2.5, resulting in more local illness.”
Mrs Turner also criticised the company for dismissing the risk of seismic activity and traffic problems on the proposed lorry route.
Amanda Suddeby said:
“I am disappointed that the planning system makes it so difficult for members of the public to influence decision-making.”
The inspector said his decision would not be released until after the general election on 12 December 2019.
Egdon Resources has applied for costs against the council.