IGas has applied for consent to extend the life of its shale gas site at Misson in north Nottinghamshire.
The company says it will not carry out any exploration work at the site while the current moratorium on fracking is in place.
But it has said that if the moratorium were lifted it would seek to drill and frack at Misson.
The three-year planning permission expired on 20 November 2020. Now the company has applied for another three years until 2023.
In an application to Nottinghamshire County Council, the company said it did not intend to drill the second well at the site, allowed under the original permission granted just over four years ago. It was also not seeking to frack during the extension.
IGas said it was seeking only to extend the evaluation and restoration phases of the site.
But it said:
“Once new evidence has been brought forward to allow the lifting of the effective moratorium, the Applicant intends to apply to the Mineral Planning Authority to drill a second well, Springs Rd 2 and then hydraulically fracture and flow test that well.”
IGas said the first well, Springs Road 1, drilled in early 2019, confirmed “significant gas bearing shale sections” in the Upper Gainsborough shale and the Lower Gainsborough shale.
The company said initial analysis of data showed “a very material world class resource”.
Analysis was ongoing, it said, and would “allow the finalisation of well design” for the second well, a lateral borehole, to be called Springs Rd 2.
“To abandon and restore the well site whilst the matters raised by the moratorium are being investigated effectively sterilises the site. The Applicant is agreeable to secure removing the drilling of a second exploratory borehole either by the imposition of an additional planning condition or through a S106 legal agreement.”
The decision to grant permission for shale gas exploration at Misson was controversial. It is just 125m away from the eastern edge of Misson Carr Site of Special Scientific Interest. This is the largest wetland fen in the area and home to all five species of British owl, as well as other unusual and threatened birds, plants and insects.
IGas said in its new application that the original assessments were still valid and the impacts were acceptable on issues including: transport, noise, vibration, air quality, landscape and visual impact, lighting, hydrogeology, hydrology and flood risk, contaminated land, ecology and cultural heritage.
The company said:
“No unacceptable environmental impacts have been identified. Furthermore, a well site has been constructed and a vertical well drilled without causing any detrimental impact on the environment or amenity. The operations have been undertaken successfully and fully in accordance with both planning and permitting controls placed upon the Operator.
“Mitigation measures implemented to protect the environment and amenity from the outset of development remain in place and will ensure that the extension of time in operations can be undertaken in accordance with existing planning controls and to the highest environmental standards.”
The extension would not cause significant adverse impacts on the environment or local residents, the company added. It would also not breach local or national planning policies.
Frack Free Misson, which has opposed IGas operations in the village, said:
“IGas have had plenty of time to complete all their work but instead they want to hang on to their limited cash and hedge their bets.
“It was passed as a temporary exploration site, this extension would negate this.
“IGas seem to have a blatant disregard of the conditions placed upon them. They started construction phase knowing that they couldn’t possibly complete it before the start of the bird breeding season in Feb 2018. They then applied for and obtained an extension until the end of March .2018
“They could have applied for an extension anytime this year but waited until the last minute knowing that even if they didn’t get the extension the earliest they would be able to restore the site would be Sept 2021, after bird nesting season.
“This attempt by IGas is simply a speculative ploy in pursuit of a lost cause.”
A public consultation on the extension runs until 31 January 2021.
Updated to include extended date of public consultation