Aurora continues bid to frack near Formby – tremor risk “out of date”

190906 Altcar Moss site

Notices marking boundary of proposed fracking site, Altcar Moss, September 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

The company that wants to frack for shale gas near Formby in Lancashire is pressing ahead with its planning application, despite the government’s recent moratorium.

But Aurora Resources has been advised to update its estimate of the risk of fracking-induced earth tremors.

The company said in its application that the geology of its proposed site at Great Altcar was “very similar” to Preston New Road, where in August Cuadrilla caused the UK’s largest fracking-induced tremor, measuring 2.9ML.

Aurora said the size of tremors caused by its operation would be limited to 1.5ML. But this statement was made before the August tremors at Preston New Road and the moratorium.

On 2 November, the government said it was withdrawing its support for shale gas because it was not possible to predict accurately whether fracking would cause tremors and what size they would be.

Now Lancashire County Council has formally asked the company for new data. A letter from the council’s development plan leader, Jonathan Haine, published online, said fracking at Altcar Moss might be expected to induce similar seismic activity to Preston New Road.

“The risk assessment within the ES [Environmental Statement] should therefore be updated as they are based upon an assumption that the embedded mitigation will limit the size of seismic events to 1.5Ml. Events at PNR appear to demonstrate that seismic events well above this level are possible.”

Mr Haine said the county council had been advised that Aurora’s geological setting was “too generic” and a “more site-specific study” would help to justify the 1.5ML conclusion.

Aurora had said none of the faults within the carboniferous rock formation reached the surface. But Mr Haine said:

“The County Council’s advice is that this is unlikely to be the case and that more detail should be presented within the ES to justify the conclusions.”

DrillOrDrop understands that the campaign network, The Moss Alliance, has been advised that because of the geology of Altcar Moss, fracking would be likely to result in worse induced seismic events than those caused by Cuadrilla at Preston New Road.

More detail

Altcar Moss planning application Aurora Resources 6

Photo-montage of the proposed site from the Trans Pennine Trail. Source: planning application

Mr Haine also formally asked Aurora for more information on a wide range of issues, including the local ecology, noise, air and water pollution, traffic and site plans.

On site design, he asked why Aurora was proposing to use a 60m rig when Cuadrilla had been limited to 36m at Preston New Road. He also asked where water would come from for fracking and whether proposed fencing had any noise-reducing properties.

Known as a section 25 request, this is likely to delay a decision on the application.

The proposal will now not be considered by the next meeting of the county council’s planning committee on 27 November 2019.

There is no meeting scheduled for December so the first available meeting would be 22 January 2020. But whether the proposal is considered at this meeting will depend on how quickly Aurora provides the information and whether there is a further public consultation.

The Moss Alliance, which has been campaigning against Aurora’s application, met last night.

DrillOrDrop understands that its report commissioned from planning consultants is due this week. A spokesperson for the network said:

“Nothing has changed for us. We will be using the report to object in the strongest terms and we are encouraging residents to continue to lodge their objections with Lancashire County Council.

We are actively raising awareness through the press and social media that the “moratorium” is not a ban and we will be continuing our work opposing Aurora’s application.”

Disputed impact on birds


Campaign image against fracking at Altcar Moss

Aurora has said its proposals would have no “significant effect” on wildlife sites of European importance, including the Sefton coast, Ribble and Alt Estuaries, Martin Mere and Liverpool Bay.

Mr Haine said Natural England, the government’s adviser on nature conservation, said there was “currently insufficient information” in Aurora’s application to justify this conclusion.

Natural England, a statutory consultee on the application, said Aurora’s bird surveys were incomplete and did not follow agreed methodology. They should have been produced in December, February, March, April and May.

But Mr Haine told Aurora:

“Unless you have additional bird survey data for the above months that has not been submitted with the Environmental Assessment, I therefore consider that you need to be undertaking some additional bird surveys in winter 2019/2020.”

Natural England also said Aurora should reassess the impacts of noise from site construction, operation and restoration on the European wildlife sites.

The organisation said Aurora had wrongly calculated the significance of bird species present around the site.

This is important because if 1% of particular bird species from the European wildlife sites are using the proposed development site then the two areas are said to be functionally linked. Any impact must therefore be assessed appropriately and protection measures proposed.

Natural England said Aurora’s data showed that 1% of the pink footed geese and lapwing populations from the European sites used the proposed fracking site or land within 500m of it.

Greenhouse gases

Figures for the development’s estimated contribution of greenhouse gases were inconsistent in the application, Mr Haine said.


The predicted increase in ambient noise at Sutton’s Farm suggested there would be an adverse impact, Mr Haine said.

“I, therefore, consider that further mitigation needs to be incorporated into the development and a demonstration included of the level of noise mitigation that would be provided.”

Mr Haine added:

“The night time noise impacts are not greatly discussed in the summary section at the end of the noise assessment except to say that night time noise will not affect resident because they will be indoors or asleep. This conclusion seems to disregard the point that during the summer residents may sleep with windows open and that they could be subject to sleep disturbance if woken by site noise.”

Air and water

Aurora has not submitted an application for an environmental permit at the same time as the planning permission. Mr Haines said this meant there was less information provided on air or ground and surface water quality.

He said the planning application had no details of water monitoring – so there was no reassurance that the issue had been addressed or that mitigation measures could be implemented.

There were no details of baseline or operational monitoring for air pollutants, Mr Haine said. The application also did not include estimates of hydrogen sulphide emissions or volatile organic compounds from flaring. Details on radon and naturally-occurring radioactive materials were also missing.


Altcar Moss planning application Aurora Resources 3

Location of wellsite and access track (in red). Source: planning application

Mr Haine said Aurora’s application had missing documents and inadequate information on how local roads would cope with additional heavy or large vehicles.

He suggested that all lorries should use the A565 to avoid the B5195 east of the site. This would “remove any flexibility”, Mr Haine said, if there were protests between the site at the A565.

Green belt

The Altcar site is in the green belt and Mr Haine suggested that Aurora had not correctly interpreted planning policy.

The planning statement said that the proposal was for temporary minerals operations and was therefore appropriate development in the green belt.

But Mr Haine said the proposal would be of a significant scale and Aurora should demonstrate there were very special circumstances to justify it.

“I consider that you need to submit additional evidence in relation to Green Belt impacts.”

36 replies »

    • I wonder if Aurora have any fracking experience at all? Seeing as Ian Roche and Francis Egan are both employed by UKOOG I imagine they may discuss the failings at Preese Hall, PNR, Roseacre and the Becconsall site. The failings at Annas Rd and the Singleton site may also pop up in conversation.

      The inability of Cuadrilla to control seismicity makes you wonder how on earth Aurora come up with a 1.5 magnitude figure. Pure guesswork?

      The Zetland Group report is lacking in many ways to support the Aurora application. Is ARUP still around or have they called it a day on working for the fracking industry?

      Aurora can press ahead all it wants. It will cost them a fortune and once again the industry will come up against a well organised community with the resolve to stop them before they even start..

      • John Powney

        Aurora came up with a 1.5 magnitude figure by the same process that Cuadrilla did it would seem.

        The information in their Environmental assessment is similar to that in Cuadrilla documentation.

        See section 17.7 of the attached document.

        The key point for the company is in Section 17.8.2, page 317, third paragraph, bullet point 4, in that they need to review their assessment in the light of any seismic events ( such as the Cuadrilla 2.9 ) and therefore update the assessment accordingly.

        I am sure that the long grass awaits this planning application while they await further information. This information may, or may not, support their application.

      • John P. I suppose the true entitlement of the anti’s against such a great industry like the FF industry which has given us huge benefits in the first worlds production:- these to name a few medicines combating disease and illness, communications for it, work and play, transportation for food produce and that ‘amazon’ parcel & fuel for cooking and heat.

        To personally has people to use these means, for the above, then misunderstood slander against an industry which offers us first class medical care, communication aids which are used globally, by everyone, transportation which includes pedal power and public transport, and a potential way out of fuel poverty, is hypocritical, scandalous and down right lunacy!

        • Can you give us a translation poppet? You seem to be a bit overwrought ….

          “To personally has people to use these means, for the above, then misunderstood slander against an industry which offers us first class medical care, communication aids which are used globally, by everyone, transportation which includes pedal power and public transport, and a potential way out of fuel poverty, is hypocritical, scandalous and down right lunacy!”

          • De-fraction, my point it is, it is lunacy to use, consume and benefit from a resource, but then picket and oppose that same resource when it suits them.
            Do you gas in your everyday life, then you are not happy where it is produced.

            Could you be honest, before the extraction process of fracking in the UK came about were you fully aware of the 40 year old UK offshore oil and gas industry and what it done to benefit the UK?, or are the anti’s that naive? That we can get all the benefits from a renewable industry which is still hugely government subsidised, what happens when the money used by the treasury from the FF industry to subsidise renewables is removed? No more technology in renewables, no more employment and a knackered Britain, sad times!
            Camp fires are calling!

            • I gas all the time in my everyday life Eli.

              Like most of the country I have grown up with North Sea gas so of course I was aware of the offshore gas industry.

              I also accept that we will use gas going forward, but I am not naive enough to believe that companies will buy gas because it is UK sourced (even if they could). They will buy from the cheapest source and there is a large variety of cheap and plentiful sources. Apart from all the other killer issues that is where UK fracked gas would fail anyway.

              With natural gas futures averaging about 47p a therm and with the need for seismic mitigation pushing the UK extraction cost of any putative fracked gas still higher, this industry will only survive if it is hugely government subsidised. The difference with renewables is that their cost is coming down while the costs of fracking are having increments added to their already high level.

              It really is time you stopped this silly scaremongering.

              • The difference with renewables is that their cost is coming down while the costs of fracking are having increments added to their already high level.
                Where are these increments being added?, from policing and deferment from the anti’s!! £££
                USA have got the price of extraction right and are exporting fracked gas to the UK, charging us a fortune for which we have the capability to produce our own fracking sovereign wealth fund!

                • John P: you are contradicting your own agenda, you are discussing the profitability of USA shale gas, against looking to stop UK fracking at all costs?, Nimbyism?
                  What’s the gas profitability got to do with seismicity and experience of shale gas fracking in the UK?, as per you previous posts?
                  Are you an investor in oil and gas, do you hold a pension which is related to the UK stock exchange well you may want to think harder as your future might just depend on oil & gas futures?

      • I imagine it’s the same 1ML additional seismicity evaluation that Cuadrilla made which was subsequently disproved by events? Good luck to them – they’ll certainly need it 😉

  1. Sadly this seems very like Boris sending the unsugned letter to the EU – ie he does not mean it about the moratorium and is sending mixed messages out. A bad day fir British democracy

  2. Just ask them for proof that they won’t cause earthquakes. It clearly can’t be provided and that means the moratorium stands in their way, and according to a Conservative Party spokesperson will continue to do so.

    “A Conservative party spokesperson said: “The Government has placed a moratorium on fracking in England with immediate effect by making it our policy not to issue any Hydraulic Fracturing Consents. This does not technically prevent applications but it does mean that they will be refused.

    “We have also ruled out any changes to the planning system, having listened to local residents. Fracking is now off the table. We would only ever change our position if both the science supported it and communities wanted it.”

  3. It seems that Aurora are ‘drifting along’ rather than ‘pressing ahead’?

    I would put money on Aurora failing to provide any updates as requested while the moratorium is in force, and in particular any update as to seismic activity prior to any findings from the second well at PNR are released.

    So, moratorium on fracking holds while planning process for Aurora planning application proceeds in a glacial manner ( be that moving slowly or melting away ).

      • Hewes, you seem to be suggesting that you think the findings from the second well will improve matters for the frackers.

        I don’t see how they can.

        In fact they will simply demonstrate that having screwed up once and then tried to proceed more carefully (changes to fluid composition etc) they not only went and did it again but they did it even worse. (2.9Ml v 1.5 Ml which is 25 x greater in magnitude)

        Of course they may spin some b/s about their improved understanding of sesimicity and how to control it, but after listening to them crowing about their marvellous 3D seismic imaging which mislocated an entire layer of millstone grit, and provoking quakes at EVERY well they fracked, I doubt anybody will be taking Cuadrilla too seriously on that.

        I mean when the OGA synthesised all the available data from the wells and 3d mapping in July 2018 they came out with this 😉

        “ConclusionsThe primary objective of this project was to integrate the newly available drilling data from the PNR 1, PNR 1Z and PNR 2 wells into the 3D seismic interpretation, and to evaluate whether this new information required changing any of the interpretation, or the conclusions made within the original BGS study, which could change the risk of frac-induced seismicity. It was also important to compare this work, and the BGS interpretation with that submitted by Cuadrilla within the Hydraulic Fracture Plan.This project interpretation at Preston New Road closely matches that of the BGS study. Some differences include a more detailed interpretation of the faulting and fault relationships, in particular for minor faults. With the supplied deviation surveys for the lateral wells, a direct tie could be made tointerpret the horizons that are being proposed to be hydraulically fractured in PNR 1Z and PNR 2.Both reports do independently conclude that the proposed locations for hydraulic fracturing at Preston New Road do not intersect any major mappable faults, therefore confirming the lower risk of induced seismicity than that seen at Preese Hall in 2011.”

        That aged well didn’t it?

  4. We have lived 4.4 road miles from the Cuadrilla PNR fracking site for over 20 years.
    We’ve never experienced seismic around here until the August Bank Holiday Monday 2.9 Hydrofrac.
    Our home was damaged and we are seeking remedial action.
    Our home and others around us are now vulnerable to further seismic attack via the newly created pathway.
    Beware the lying frackers, Egan stated fracking PNR would not cause earthquakes. According to the British Geological Survey he was incorrect!

  5. The world is addicted to gas, and the oil and gas industry is getting past its downturn, FACT!…
    Try getting treatment and surgery on behalf of the NHS without our fossil fuels, plastic and medications… I guarantee once you need medical attention you would be amazed by the NEED for the hydrocarbon industry. A’men!

  6. Or, if you were flooded and you needed diesel pumps, diesel tractors, diesel fire engines and (mainly) diesel 4X4s to help you out.

    Much better than 3 litre diesel BMWs to enable photos to be taken.

    (Mind you, in my area it was diesel that caused flash flooding a few years ago-diesel tanks in 1944! A local village had their large drainage ditch filled in to park tanks head of D-Day. No one remembered to dig it out again and about 70 years later the village flooded. All due to “climate change” until a local resident produced the black and white photos of before, during and after.)

  7. Seems a lot of anxiety to maintain a justification for a blog!

    Nothing to see here-won’t happen.

    Anything in 2020 will need a bigger beast to discuss with Government, with the resources to exert the required pressure. If that happens and the situation changes then the tiddlers will try again to piggy back. Probably take a while for someone to think about where the hydrogen will come from to fit the promises already made.

    Meanwhile, mining of oceans-and the environmental damage that will cause, will go ahead-to maintain the fiction of life without fossil fuels.

  8. After reading this, it’s hard to believe that Aurora managed to submit a single element of their application fully or accurately. I wonder if, as usual, the planning authority will be blamed for the ensuing delays. I sincerely hope that (electioneering moratorium notwithstanding) the govt will be properly scrutinising their financial security before approving anything, as they appear completely inept in every other aspect.

  9. Wondering where all the lovely clean fresh water is coming from to carry all those nasty chemicals and fracking sand into all the wells needed?

    I think people will find the answer to this problem just as socially unacceptable as the swarms of earthquakes that have struck the Fylde over the last few years since Cuadrilla arrived.

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