Regulation

“Suspicion” at Cuadrilla’s gas plans for Elswick

Elswick well area produced water and pipework Cuadrilla Resources

Well area and produced water tank at Elswick. Photo: Cuadrilla Resources planning application

Campaigners who fought Cuadrilla’s fracking plans near Blackpool for nearly five years are now questioning the company’s motives for another site a mile away.

Cuadrilla is seeking five more years at its Elswick gas site, which was due to be restored last year.

The site, which has not produced gas for nearly seven years, is off the same road as Cuadrilla’s failed proposal at Roseacre Wood to drill and frack up to four wells.

This was refused permission in 2019 by the then local government secretary, James Brokenshire.

Elswich location

Location of the Elswick site (red circle) and the failed Roseacre Wood fracking site (blue circle). Source: Adapted version of map from Cuadrilla planning application

At Elswick, Cuadrilla has said it wanted to resume gas production, install a new generator and refurbish the site. There are no plans to frack or drill further wells, the company has said.

But a community group which opposed the Roseacre Wood site at two public inquiries said today:

“Roseacre Awareness Group is very suspicious about Cuadrilla’s motivation regarding this request for an extension of planning permission at this site.

“Cuadrilla say they only want to replace a broken generator and restart production even though this site has not been producing any gas since 2013 so it is hardly a priority. Why have they not done this before? Why apply to extend permission now?”

Temporary planning permission was first granted for Elswick in 1994. There have since been three other time extensions of consent, the most recent to until February 2019.

Cuadrilla said in an application submitted this month to Lancashire County Council that “on balance the benefits of the development are considered to offset any disbenefits and environmental effects”.

It said the proposal supported government policy to “maximise security of gas and oil supply”.

The UK, the company said, was becoming increasingly dependent on imports of gas from Russia and that Norwegian gas production was predicted to fall by up to 35% by 2035.

The Elswick site has no connection to the gas grid. Any gas produced is burned in a small generator to produce electricity. Waste gases from the flue are emitted to the atmosphere.

The company conceded that the well had been shut in for seven years and there had been no gas production since 2013 because of a mechanic failure in the generator.

It estimated that the site could produce 250,000 standard cubic feet per day (sfcd).

Data from the Oil & Gas Authority shows that the last full calendar year for gas production at Elswick was 2012, when the site produced up to 37,669 scfd. At its peak, in March 1997, Elswick produced up to 306,000 scfd.

The planning application, currently out for consultation, includes a 61-page planning statement and a 76-page transport plan.

A spokesperson for Roseacre Awareness Group said:

“An awful lot of time and expenditure has been spent for a small conventional gas site that has not produced any gas for many years and one which we doubt makes a lot of money.”

Cuadrilla Roseacre Wood proposed traffic routes

Cuadrilla’s three proposed traffic routes to the Roseacre Wood site near Blackpool. Map: Cuadrilla Resources

The group was particularly concerned about Cuadrilla’s traffic plans for Elswick.

The company proposes to bring heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) to Elswick along the northern section of what was called the “green route” to its Roseacre Wood site.

This went from the A585 onto the B5269 Thistleton Road, on to Elswick High Street and then a right turn into Roseacre Road.

In his decision notice refusing permission for Roseacre Wood, Mr Brokenshire said: “there would be additional adverse economic impacts on local business if the green route … were to be used by HGVs visiting the appeal site.”

He also said:

“the green route fails to provide safe and suitable access to the site for all users. The route’s deficiencies combined with the change in the traffic associated with the development would result in real and unacceptable risks to the safety of people using the public highway, including vulnerable road users.”

Consultants for Cuadrilla said:

“Overall, the number of HGV movements over the total five year period, would be negligible when compared to existing vehicle movements using the local road network.

“Even during the peak days of HGV movement, the impact would not be discernible.”

But opponents of the site have pointed to the 40 two-way HGV movements a day that would be generated by plugging and abandonment of the well and restoration of the site.

The consultants said this would happen on only four days. But opponents said the daily number of HGV movements was close to the maximum of 50 proposed at Roseacre Wood and rejected by the secretary of state.

The Roseacre Awareness Group spokesperson said:

“Is this Cuadrilla’s way of trying to circumvent that decision?

“If they get permission to route up to 40 vehicles along our rural lanes, and passing directly through Elswick village centre, could this set a precedent for future planning applications?

“Are we right to be suspicious? Time will tell but we will remain ever vigilant and will not let this industry ride roughshod over our communities for the sake of profit.”

Lancashire County Council is currently inviting comments on the scheme. Roseacre Awareness Group has said it will object. The consultation period runs until 14 February 2020.


Key facts on the Elswick application

These details are from Cuadrilla’s planning and traffic statements. DrillOrDrop will report on responses to the application when they become available.

Elswick well head Cuadrilla Resources

The Elswick site well head. Photo: Cuadrilla Resources planning appliication

Application

Application number and link: LCC/2020/0006

Description: Retention and continuation of use of Elswick Generation Station for natural gas extraction and electricity generation for a further five years including installation of a new generation unit.

Address: Off Roseacre Road, Elswick, Lancashire

Received: 17/1/2020

Applicant: Cuadrilla Elswick Ltd

Agent: Aecom Infrastructure & Environment UK Ltd

Site

Size: 1.2ha

Location: 400m off Roseacre Lane between Elswick and Roseacre

Site areas: well with fixed well head and de-watering storage tank; generator area; parking

Nearest home: Saswick House Farm 360m

Background

Elswick well area

The well area at Elswick. Photo: Cuadrilla Resources planning application

April-June 1990: Elswick well drilled by Gas Council Exploration Limited, subsidiary of British Gas plc, to a depth 5,300ft (1,615m) into Collyhurst sandstone

June 1993: Stimulation of the well at 3,408-3,504ft using 163m3 of gelled water and CO2.

There’s some confusion on whether the well was fracked. The transport statement said it was not (p19). But the hydraulic fracture plan (p7) for the PNR1z well at Preston New Road gives the volume of hydraulic fracture fluid for Elswick.

May 1994: First planning permission for temporary extraction of gas

October 1995: New permission extending the period of extraction for a further two years

June 1996: Start of gas production

May 1998: Permission extended extraction and electricity generation for 10 years

February 2009: Further extension of permission for 10 years

December 2012: permission for installation of a storage container

April 2013: End of gas production

Proposed development

  • Retention of produced water storage tank;
  • Refurbishment of existing portacabin and container
  • Installation of a new replacement gas engine
  • Retention and use of existing site access track
  • Retention of existing grassed soil screening mounds
  • Install new container-mounted generator to replace broken unit (which will stay in place)

Stages of development

  • Stage 1: wireline assessment of condition of well – 5 months
  • Stage 2: implementation work, including procurement of contractor, generator, refurbishment of site, installation and work on new generator, testing – -6 months
  • Stage 3: production and electricity generation – 3.6 years
  • Stage 4: well decommissioning and site restoration – 3 months

Cuadrilla said:

“The site has been operating successfully and without demonstrable environmental harm since planning permission was first granted in 1994.

“The continued use of the site for gas extraction is in accordance with government policy of maximising security of gas and oil supply and exploiting indigenous gas and oil reserves where they can be extracted in a safe and sensitive manner without giving rise to a material adverse impact on the environment.”

What Cuadrilla says on key issues?

Traffic

The company said no new site access was required and the number of vehicle movements associated with operation of the site would not change.

Its consultants said the application would “not be detrimental or have an unacceptable impact on existing users”.

The transport statement accompanying the application said the initial stages would generate up to 10 two-way HGV movements per day, though on most days this would be 0-2. During gas production, there would be negligible traffic.

After operations had ceased, plugging, abandonment and site restoration would generate up to 40 daily HGV movements on four days, the company said.

Consultants for Cuadrilla estimated the proposals would result in an increase of 0.4%-1.9% in total vehicles on the B5269 through Elswick and 1.1%-5.3% on Roseacre Road.

They said the proposed lorry route was already used daily by heavy goods vehicles and the largest HGVs were seen on the narrowest section on Roseacre Road.

Noise

Elswick generator welfare and storage Cuadrilla Resources

Generator, welfare facilities and storage at Elswick. Photo: Cuadrilla Resources planning application

Cuadrilla said noise from the site was “very low” and “effectively inaudible” at the nearest home.

The sound of the generator was estimated at up to 40dB La at the nearest home.

The company said night-time noise from the M55 at the nearest home was estimated at 40-45 dBLnight.

It said the proposed development was “unlikely to cause a perceptible increase in night-time noise over the background”.

Air quality

Cuadrilla said: “The proposed development will not pose any significant additional risk with respect to continued operation of the gas and electricity generation site and the associated network on air quality.”

Waste

The company said it was applying for two environmental permits to deal with produced water containing naturally occurring radioactive material and non-extractive waste streams such as lubrication oil and construction waste.

Landscape

Cuadrilla said:

“the development is already well screened within the landscape and landscaped bunds already provide a sound and visual barrier between any sensitive receptors.”

There will be no further changes to the character of the landscape, the company said.

Planning policy

Cuadrilla said its application complies with local and national planning policies, including the National Planning Policy Framework, minerals planning practice guidance, written ministerial statements, the policies in Lancashire’s reviewed minerals plan and climate change strategy, the national policy for energy infrastructure and the 2012 energy security strategy.

The company said:

“If permission was not granted, then this would prevent the full recovery of the gas reserve and benefit arising from electricity generation and connection to the national grid.”

10 replies »

  1. Not a lot of questions it seems!

    Perhaps that is because the simple answer is that Cuadrilla have an asset that has not been utilised which they now wish to remedy? The old asset must have been built, and therefore accommodated the traffic in doing so. The refurbishment of the asset is therefore simply a repeat of what has already occurred without issue.

    Plenty of derelict buildings around the country that go through exactly the same process.

    Could be an extra income stream from a TV programme recording the “event”!

  2. For once Martin I actually agree with some of your comment. This might give this ailing company an income stream. The access to the site will utilise what was a part of the Green Route proposed by Cuadrilla to Frack at Roseacre wood but it is on a very small stretch of Roseacre Road that is used by Tractors, Milk Tankers and other large HGVs on a very limited scale and i cannot see how Roseacre Awareness Group(RAG) can compare what is planned with what would have taken place if RW had been given the go ahead. The local Parish Council will, I am sure, go over the submission in great detail and their local Councillor, Paul Hayhurst is a LCC Councillor as well so I am sure he will be on the case. RAG were very successful in their fight to stop RW, thanks to the hard work of a lot of people but whilst I can understand their suspicion of a company that has proven itself to be economic with the truth at times they must stop seeing a frack round every corner!

  3. “Economic with the truth” is in the eye of the beholder, TP. I suggest there has been plenty from the antis. Does that mean they have no justification to continue their objections?

    Attempts to muddy the waters with “suspicions” against this sort of application have already been attempted regarding Third Energy.

    It seems a rather silly attempt to raise a degree of excitement where none is justified and will simply discredit genuine concerns around other more significant issues.

    • The application form is incorrect. It states that it is a production phase development. The site does not produce gas and there is no evidence that without exploration and appraisal that it could. LCC should reject the application in it’s current form. If Cuadrilla submit it as an exploration development it would then be considered under different criteria.

      • Another who knows more about the site than the site owners!

        Desperate stuff. More attempts to excite that will just discredit.

        • Minerals guidance for planning states,

          When should site restoration and aftercare be considered?

          The most appropriate form of site restoration to facilitate different potential after uses should be addressed in both local minerals plans, which should include policies to ensure worked land is reclaimed at the earliest opportunity and that high quality restoration and aftercare of mineral sites takes place, and on a site-by-site basis following discussions between the minerals operator and the mineral planning authority

          Paragraph: 037 Reference ID: 27-037-20140306

          How is it that the council have not already enforced the restoration of this redundant site?

  4. John Powney

    I disagree with your opinion that site needs exp!ovation and appraisal.

    The exploration and appraisal as done when the well was drilled and tested.

    They drilled the well (part of exploration ) and tested it ( appraisal ). They then produced gas ( production ). Therefore the well is a production well.

    See page 3 in the link, which explains the meaning of exploration.

    Click to access Planning_practice_guidance_for_onshore_oil_and_gas.pdf

    The company plan to check the condition of the well by use of a wireline unit and then do whatever work they need to do to produce gas, should there be sufficient to keep the generator going.

    I am not sure how checking the condition of existing infrastructure could be construed as exploration ( there is gas there, they found it ), or appraisal ( they tested the well and then decided to install a generator.).

    Plus there is no evidence presented ( by yourself or Cuadrilla) that they intend to explore ( by running new seismic maybe, drilling further wells or drilling into other reservoirs via a sidetrack ) or appraising any such new wells.

    While the well has not been producing for some years, this will be due to it being shut in due to a generator fault. Not due to The gas moving off somewhere underground and having to be found again by a suitable exploration program.

    The policies regarding restoration will, therefore not apply, given the company has asked to restart production. They will be relevant should the company find that the well is not in good order and they wish to decommissioned the site ( plug and abandon the well ).

    Presumably they also applied prior to the application, when the issue of the ‘earliest opportunity’ for site restoration would be considered. It would be interesting to know how those discussions went over the years.

  5. hewes62-I think JP had it earmarked for a number of noisy, bird mincing, HGV generating, wind turbines. Probably needed since the Western Link marine cable is STILL not working properly, after £1.3m investment! 165m Euros booked in provisions for repair costs and “contractual penalties.”

    Strange how the repeat failures in the alternative energy sector are brushed under the carpet. LOL.

    • Martin

      Yes, it’s a strange one. I also see that RAG oppose the development, as well as seemingly opposing the abandonment and site restoration ( they oppose the 40 HGV day for 4 days during that activity ).

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