Rathlin Energy has confirmed it cannot begin work on its second oil and gas site at West Newton, north of Hull, until there has been an archaeological survey of what could be an ancient village.
The company was granted planning permission in June 2015 to drill and test two wells and build an access track at the site, known as West Newton-B, near Burton Constable.
But no site work has yet been carried out and Rathlin has not set a date for construction to start.
A geophysical survey on West Newton-B four years ago concluded that features under the ground could belong to a medieval village. But they could date back to Roman or prehistoric times.
Rathlin Energy’s operations engineer, Caroline Foster, told residents last week that some trial trenches had been dug on the site.
But she said the company had not yet complied with a condition on archaeology in the planning permission.
Before work can start, the condition requires Rathlin to strip ploughed soil from the site, then investigate, record and recover archaeological remains.
DrillOrDrop reported on the geophysical survey of the West Newton-B site in 2015. This revealed potential archaeological features across the proposed wellsite and access track.
“[These] most likely represent field boundaries and other anthropogenic features of an unknown date.”
It also said:
“To the north of the site are earthworks that belong to the medieval village of West Newton, and it possible that the linear features identified by the survey relate to this, although it is equally plausible that they are of earlier date.”
Archaeologists have reported that the Holderness landscape was settled by early people up to 10,000 years ago. Research has revealed Iron Age, Romano-British and Anglo-Scandinavian settlements, as well as Bronze Age barrows and Mesolithic flint-knapping sites.
Details of plans for the West Newton-B project were given to members of the community liaison group, comprising residents and local representatives.
Rathlin Energy said it planned to drill to about 2,100m to target the Kirkham Abbey and Cadeby reservoirs. It said it would not drill into the Bowland shale, at about 3,000m and there were no plans for high volume hydraulic fracturing.
The meeting heard that the Environment Agency had granted consent for drilling and drill stem tests. But the permit would need to be varied to include an extended well test and flaring.
Before drilling could start, Rathlin said it would also need to get consent to drill from the Oil & Gas Authority. It would have to notify the Health and Safety Executive and the Coal Authority. The design of the well would be submitted for approval to the Environment Agency.
Site construction work was expected to take about 12 weeks, the company said. It described as “ambitious” suggestions by an investor in the scheme that site work would start in the first quarter of 2020, drilling in second quarter and testing in the third quarter.
The meeting was told the access track would be built across farmland from Pasture Lane up to Crook Lane and Engine Lane and then onto the site. Water monitoring boreholes, required by the Environment Agency permit, may be drilled before site construction work began, the company added.
The route for traffic would be through Bilton and Wyton to Sproatley then towards Aldbrough before going towards Humbleton and Pasture Lane, the company also said..
Under the planning permission, work must start by June 2020.
- Rathlin Energy also explained why testing had been suspended at its other local site, West Newton-A site. It said there was no enough energy in the wellbore to recover reservoir fluids to the surface. The operation needed a pump, and this, in turn, would need a review of the site’s environmental permit. This was expected to take about two months, Rathlin said.