Breaking: Egdon wins appeal on Wressle oil production

181024 Wressle UWOC

Wressle wellsite, 24 October 2018. Used with the owner’s consent

Egdon Resources has got the go-ahead for 15 years of oil production at its Wressle site near Scunthorpe.

In a decision announced today, the company’s appeal against a refusal of planning permission was allowed.

The planning inspector, Philip Ware, who chaired a public inquiry on the scheme in November 2019, said:

“There was never any evidence to substantiate the refusal or explain that it was a reasonable response to the application.”

The announcement brings to an end a planning dispute between Egdon and North Lincolnshire Council which dates back to 2016.

The company sought permission to retain the site, install new equipment and facilities and carry out oil production for 15 years.

The council’s planning committee refused the scheme three times, most recently in November 2018, despite recommendations by officers to approve.

On the most recent decision, Mr Ware said:

“The reason for refusal was generalised and, as it subsequently transpired, unsupported by any objective analysis.”

He said:

“Any very limited residual adverse effects of the proposal would not be significant and could be properly controlled, and mitigated.

“There are no material considerations which, even taken together, come close to outweighing the presumption in favour of the development and the benefits which it would bring.”

Mr Ware accused the council of “unreasonable behaviour”, even though it withdrew its most recent objection four months before the start of the inquiry.

Mr Ware added that the council’s statement of case was “inadequate” and there had been an “unreasonable delay” of two months by the authority.

This had resulted in “unnecessary or wasted expense”, he said. He made a full award of costs against the council. The figure was not included in the decision notice.


191106 WI 6 Mark Abbott DoD

Egdon managing director, Mark Abbott, giving evidence to the Wressle inquiry, 6 November 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Mark Abbott, managing director of Egdon Resources plc, said today:

“I am delighted that the Planning Inspectorate has made this positive determination in relation to this important asset for Egdon and our JV partners.

“We will now begin work on discharging the planning conditions and the detailed planning for the development works.

“We will continue to keep shareholders and the local community informed.”

David Bramhill, executive chairman of Union Jack Oil plc, a partner at Wressle, said:

“The Board of Union Jack is delighted with this positive outcome.

“The operator will, on behalf of the Joint Venture partners, begin work on discharging the planning conditions and detailed planning for development of the Wressle Oil Field.

“Shareholders and the local community will be informed of developments.”

Another partner, Europa, said in its recent company accounts that its future depended on production this year from the Wressle well. The company’s chairman, Simon Oddie, said today:

“The granting of planning consent for the development of the Wressle oil field is a milestone event for Europa.”

Elizabeth Williams, who gave evidence against the proposal at the public inquiry, said:

“We are profoundly disappointed. This development places local communities at considerable risk.”

She said the Wressle well proposed to inject hydrofluoric acid to depths of 1.8km below the town of Broughton.

“These chemical and mechanical processes have been permitted by the Environment Agency in spite of there being no record of its regulated use onshore UK before.

“Our colleagues in the South have been arguing long and hard that acidisation used as well stimulation should not be classed as “conventional”. It should, instead, come under the same scrutiny as high volume hydraulic fracturing for shale and therefore be included in the current moratorium.

“And above and beyond local concern, fossil fuel in all its aspects, contributes to climate change, which is with us here and now. It is retrogressive to allow any new extraction of oil and gas.

“The reluctance of our planning authority to oppose the advances of the oil and gas industry – for fear of incurring costs – is another indication of the erosion of democratic process. As ever the wishes of local communities and the survival of the planet are given less priority than the needs of Industry and shareholders.”

Another opponent, Andrew McLeod, said:

“It defies belief that even as our world slips ever-faster towards climate chaos, permission is still being granted for the production of yet more fossil fuels. We should be winding down the polluting fossil fuel industry as fast as possible, not encouraging its continued growth.

“How many more flashing red lights and wailing sirens do we need before we start treating climate breakdown as the emergency that it is? All those who are choosing to fail future generations, all those policy-makers and decision-takers who could address this crisis but choose not to, all those who continue to profit from fossil fuels, do so in the full knowledge of the catastrophic impacts that will occur as we continue to ignore the terrifying reality of climate and environmental breakdown.”

Key issues

191105 WI 2 banner DoD

Board outside the Wressle inquiry, 5 November 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

This was the second appeal by Egdon on the application.

The first was dismissed in January 2019 mainly because there was no ground conditions survey report for the site and insufficient evidence about the adequacy of the geosynthetic clay liner at the site.

In advance of the second appeal, consultants for North Lincolnshire Council concluded that the main weaknesses identified by the first inspector had been addressed or could be addressed by conditions.

The authority withdrew its case and took no part in the second appeal, apart from a discussion on planning conditions.

Members of the public raised objections about the impact of the scheme on climate change, local heritage, traffic movements, landscape, flooding, wildlife, air quality, noise and seismicity.

There were also concerns about the proposed proppant squeeze, which uses acid and proppant to create fractures in the rocks surrounding the borehole to increase oil flow.

But Mr Ware said the key issue was the effect of Egdon’s proposal on groundwater and watercourses. He said the Environment Agency (EA) had raised no objections:

“I give the EA’s views considerable weight especially as they form an important part of the overall scheme of regulation which would control the site and operations.”

He said there was nothing to justify residents’ concerns that the EA was unaware of the detail of the scheme or had not considered it properly.

He said:

“Overall, the proposal would not harm groundwater and watercourses and would comply with the relevant policies of the development plan.”

The inspector said the proposal was consistent with national energy policy. It had “obvious security advantages” and would reduce the need for imported gas and oil.

At a regional level he said local oil production would benefit the Humber chemical and energy cluster. He said:

“There is no suggestion that this proposal would increase the use of hydrocarbons, and the evidence demonstrates that the effect would be simply to transfer production to a more local source.”

He said opposition to national policy in the light of climate change was “well outside the remit of the appeal”. There was “very limited technical evidence” from objectors on other issues, he said.

The approval comes with 15 planning conditions.

Permission should be limited to 15 years from the start of production. Restoration should commence within six months of the end of production.

The conditions also include a noise management plan, construction quality assurance plan and controls on lighting, dust, biodiversity and the stability of the site.

Wressle appeal decision

Wressle costs decision

16 replies »

  1. Mr. Ware has certainly not pulled any punches there.

    Do the job properly, or pay the consequences, has turned into a double edged sword. About time.

    “There is no suggestion that this proposal would increase the use of hydrocarbons, and the evidence demonstrates that the effect would be simply to transfer production to a more local source.”

    Now, that could be copied into a number of situations, and probably will be.

  2. “The council’s planning committee refused the scheme three times, most recently in November 2018, despite recommendations by officers to approve.”

    “In exercise of the powers under section 250(5) of the Local Government Act 1972 and Schedule 6 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 as amended, and all other enabling powers in that behalf, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that North Lincolnshire Councilshall pay to Egdon Resources UK Limited, the costs of the appeal proceedings described in the heading of this decision such costs to be assessed in the Senior Courts Costs Office if not agreed”

    There is a link to this above, well worth a read. The Council were shown to be unreasonable in initially contesting the appeal (polite way of saying incompetent). This was no doubt due to anti pressure which will now cost the local council tax payers a significant amount of money.

  3. A good demonstration of how quickly mug punters turn into smug punters. But, no doubt, shortly to be attacked by the Gluckshmertz brigade, unhappy at the fortune of others-even a small one.

    Perhaps it may put an end to the nonsense on this site around the way investors “lose” money on such investments, by just quoting share price at the start of a set period and that at the end of the set period. That may be significant, but no more than what happens in between, and when buying and selling may have taken place.

    The Jacks found this a very difficult concept to understand, perhaps this pretty clear example will help.

    • Martin

      The Egdon share price was around 3p at the time of the last review and spiked at 6p today. So a conservative 80% gain for any mug punters who may have attended the meeting ( as selling into a spike is difficult ).

      But the oil has yet to flow, so investors beware I guess.

      • hewes62

        Indeed, you are correct. Which is very useful on a site where others are encouraged by those who are incorrect to either gloat over investor’s misfortunes, or moan around their “fortunes” demonstrating all the evils of the capitalist state. There are several who take the opportunity to engage in either activity gleefully when it appeals, it is just useful to have a real situation to demonstrate the reality.

        Mr.Ware made it quite clear around displacement of oil from elsewhere, and how that was not an issue. Sorry you missed that bit KatT. The inconvenient bits seem to be missed quite frequently. So, if the oil does flow Egdon may actually have to pay some tax upon it to the UK, although that will be reduced if they claim all the allowance for delays and costs imposed by others, who will miss that bit too.

        Nice picture of the site, presumably from a drone. I notice Dyson is doing some pretty useful development using drones across his large expanses of farm land he has acquired. Including mapping of crops to then integrate immediately into his fertilizing and spraying programs, even taking account of ground nesting birds, and all automated to a large degree. Don’t think his farming has made too much in terms of profit yet, but maybe such investment will show a return for him, and others, in years to come.

  4. I can’t speak for oil production but the same arguments should not be made for shale gas production. Imported gas by pipe from Europe has lower emissions than shale gas. It is not straightforward, given markets and companies generate demand and buy the gas that shale gas would directly displace LNG and displacing piped gas would be more harmful to the climate. There is no energy security problem with regards to U.K. gas supply and a planning inspector is not qualified to comment otherwise, given the government has stated the U.K. has security of gas supply for many years to come. Climate change is not outside of a planning decision and given the recent case whereby the WMS issued by the government relating to shale gas and climate change was deemed unlawful, a local planning authority can reasonably refuse a planning application on the grounds of climate change (counsels opinion). And of course shale gas has to pass the CCC’s three tests so legally I wouldn’t presume the same arguments and decisions will be automatically replicated elsewhere.

    • Kat

      Yes, decisions in relation to one mainly vertical oil well would not transfer easily to an expected large fracked gas field, but good news for the small Lincs and Notts oil industry.

    • KatT: lower emissions for who and which country?, we all live In Europe and on this earth. Are you telling us you first hand, and have full knowledge of the emissions of the production in european wells which feed us imported gas by pipeline?, and the emissions it took to manufacture, engineer and lay the pipeline by a construction vessel?
      Lower emissions is laughable!

  5. Hallelujah. North Lincs councilors have so far proved to be the biggest bunch of incompetent baf**ns yet. Mick Grant (Labour) and his fellow cronies have cost small shareholders a fortune! They should hang their heads in shame. I believe the original vote was 6-4 with literally no material evidence to refuse.
    They have also cost tax payers a fortune with the costs being awarded against the council which will be substantial due to high level of legal and professional bills.
    This decision today is the first substantial fight back against the whining left wingers (minority). Let’s hope there is more to come including the lifting of the fracking moratorium. I foresee exciting times ahead with the realisation of Brexit.

  6. ‘the lifting of the fracking moratorium’

    Let’s pause a moment to have a look at the facts. Cuadrilla, the company who claimed to have been involved in over 3000 drilling and fracking operations have spent £270,000,000. That figure includes all the money Centrica are prepared to lend them. What do they have to show for 10 years work and all that money? The proof that the amount of fluid you inject is not directly related to the size of any induced seismicity. What that means is they have no guarantee of control over seismicity.

    If you only needed to frack once to get years of gas then the Government might take the risk and overturn the moratorium. But that’s not how it works. You need to continually drill and frack as the wells deplete rapidly.

    I foresee a dead duck remaining very dead however feel free to keep pinning your hopes on that shale gas favorite ‘Sad Ken’

  7. The EA permit for Wressle requires a submission of a Hydraulic Fracturing Plan. Ms Andrea Leadsom’s written statement on 4 Nov 2019 says: “The Oil and Gas Authority has made clear that it cannot evaluate with confidence whether a proposal to resume hydraulic fracturing in the Fylde, or to start operations elsewhere, will not cause unacceptable levels of seismicity. The OGA are therefore unlikely to approve future Hydraulic Fracture Plans unless new evidence is presented.” If the OGA are unlikely to approve hydraulic fracture plans, wouldn’t that mean the Wressle development is unlikely to receive the OGA’s consent?

    • BOW

      At the appeal Egdon laid out it’s approach to the stimulation of their well ( Mark Abbot spoke about it and it was mentioned in the brief ).

      They plan an acid wash, then acid matrix stimulation and then fracture. The need for steps 2 and 3 would seem to depend on the success of step 1.

      So, in order to develop the well ( by getting a suitable flow rate ), the company may not need to fracture.

      If they decide it is required ( or prefer to get permission in p!ace ) then there is a large volume of information relating to the successful fracture of vertical oil or gas wells in the UK, and the absence of seismic activity.

      I imagine that the company would seek a fracture plan as it and it’s partners have existing oil and gas wells that would benefit from fracturing.

      How that plays into their EA permit and OGA approval remains to be seen. But maybe not a show stopper.

      It would also be a good opportunity for BGS to monitor activity to a greater extent than past fracturing in Lincs and Notts in order to obtain further new information.

      [Text added at poster’s request]

    • BOW

      Was Ms. Andrea Leadsom’s written response referring to fracking as defined within the Infrastructure Act 2015 or to fracking in general?

  8. John Harrison

    BOW may be enjoying the weekend

    Here is a link to the statement

    Their view on it all is at the end of the comments section in this link.

    I do not see a clear answer to your question in the statement.

    However, as the statement says in the first paragraph, that it provides an update on the government’s policy on shale gas exploration, then it is clear that fracking for anything else is not part of the moratorium. That is my opinion of course.

    • During the application for approving fracking on the KM8 well, the antifracking campaign dismissed evidence of the fracking procedure safely used on the KM1 well at the same Kirby Misperton well pad, as irrelevant due to it not being HVHP fracking of Shale.

      Yet when a moratorium is put in place on the HVHP fracking of Shale, the antifracking movement believes that procedures like the one used on the KM1 well and the one proposed for use at Wressle, are relevant and should be included in the moratorium. Strange old world.

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