Politics

Fracking moratorium doesn’t cover proppant squeeze – minister

The energy minister has confirmed that a small-scale form of fracking, planned for a site in Lincolnshire, is not covered by the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan (left) and Alexander Stafford

In a written parliamentary answer, Anne-Marie Trevelyan said the moratorium, imposed in England on 2 November 2019, applied to fracking that met a definition based on how much fluid it used.

She was asked by the MP for Rother Valley, Alexander Stafford, whether it covered the process known as proppant squeeze.

This injects fluid and proppant into a rock formation to improve the flow of hydrocarbons. The Environment Agency (EA) regards it as a form of low-volume fracking because the injection pressure is high enough to fracture rocks.

The process is expected to be used by Egdon Resources to improve oil flows at its site at Wressle near Scunthorpe.

The minister said the moratorium applied to operations defined as associated hydraulic fracturing that required Hydraulic Fracturing Consent from the secretary of state for business, energy and industrial Strategy.

The definition, originally used by the European Union, was included in the 2015 Infrastructure Act and inserted in the Petroleum Act 1998. It comprises operations that use 1,000m3 of fluid per fracturing stage or 10,000m3 of fluid during the whole fracking process.

The minister said:

“Activities outside of this definition are not included in the moratorium.”

Alexander Stafford told DrillOrDrop he hoped the definition of associated hydraulic fracturing would be “tightened up even further”.

Proposals for the Wressle proppant squeeze indicate it will not meet the definition of associated hydraulic fracturing and will not need Hydraulic Fracturing Consent.

The environmental permit for the site said the operation would use 150m3 of gelled liquid and ceramic beads.

The Wressle proppant squeeze will, however, need an approved Hydraulic Fracturing Plan, which states how the fracking process will be controlled and monitored.

DrillOrDrop understands this is being considered by the Environment Agency (EA) and Oil & Gas Authority. According to the EA the Wressle proppant squeeze will be the first time a proppant squeeze has been used in England on a deviated well under a town.

42 replies »

  1. It’s good to have this properly confirmed even if it’s unwelcome to hear. Next step: get this stopped too. Well done Mr Stafford for getting the ball rolling.

  2. Next step, get the pumps pumping to replace some of the oil imported from countries where standards are much lower.

      • Ruth. Just to clarify, is that the first time a proppant squeeze has been used in England ( Y/N), on a deviated well (Y/N) and under a Town ( as opposed to the sea, a field, a building, a village a town, a city, or maybe a COMAH site? If you add enough tests anything can be a first, especially in UK onshore oil and gas, as its such a small industry. So the first proppant squeeze in England, in a deviated well under a field of maize could be a first as well ( field of sheep, pig farm, caravan park etc etc). What does this first signify?

        • Dear Hewes62
          Thank you for your comment. The Environment Agency, in response to an Freedom of Information request, said the Wressle proppant squeeze would be the first in England from a deviated well under a town. There’s more detail in a previous DrillOrDrop article here: https://drillordrop.com/2021/01/12/wressle-frack-plan-still-in-draft/ You’re quite right to say that if you add enough tests anything can be a first. However, from what the EA said, permitted proppant squeeze operations onshore in the UK appear to be unusual. People who oppose Egdon’s operations have said they are particularly concerned about a proppant squeeze on a deviated well and the fact that the well is under the town of Broughton.

          • Ruth – sorry to come back to this. While the EA may be thinking its the first proppant squeeze from a deviated well, under a town, it is probably not the first deviated oil well fracked under a town, as the Beckingham Oilfield, which has been fracked, lies partially under Gainsborough. There may be a question as to whether they popped in proppant, but I would expect Paul Tresto may know as small scale fracturing is common, and putting a proppant in order to keep the fractures open (sand being a proppant and so on). As a proppant squeeze is just small scale fracking with a proppant, its unlikely its a first. And the EA would be hostage to fortune for saying so?

            https://www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/planningsearch/DisplayImage.aspx?doc=cmVjb3JkX251bWJlcj01NTg2JmZpbGVuYW1lPVxcbnMwMS0wMDI5XGZpbGVkYXRhMiRcREIwMy0wMDMwXFNoYXJlZEFwcHNcZGxnc1xwbGFuc1xwbGFubmluZ1xWLTI2MTdcZ2JoIHM3MyBzdXBwb3J0aW5nIHN0YXRlbWVudF8xMjA2MTExNjEyMzc0NjUucGRmJmltYWdlX251bWJlcj0xMyZpbWFnZV90eXBlPXBsYW5uaW5nJmxhc3RfbW9kaWZpZWRfZnJvbV9kaXNrPTExLzA2LzIwMTIgMTc6MDE6MTg=

            1.3. Location and Description
            As outlined above, the Gainsborough oilfield extends to the east and west of the River Trent and lies within Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire respectively. It is situated in part beneath the town of Gainsborough and part beneath the land forming Beckingham
            Marshes.

            A bit more searching though google I expect may yield a result. When I asked at the vaccination centre in Gainsborough yesterday whether people were concerned that wells had been fracked under the town (or may have been) people looked at me as if i had just stepped of the bus from the planet ZOG (we had 15 minutes to waste waiting to be ‘released’. I think there are more anit vaxers in the town than anti ‘squeezers’. There was an anti Vax sticker on the direction sign for the vaccinations. Maybe few know that there used to be an oil well within 100m of a school (its not there now, but a set of ponies graze around the site), and there is always a frisson of excitement going to Screw fix as its near 2 operating oil wells.

            • hewes62 – not much point in fracking a reservoir without proppant – unless it is a carbonate reservoir in which case acid will be used to etch out the hydraulic fractures to prevent closure when the pressure is bled off. The Beckingham 36 reservoir appears to be the Eagle Sandstone formation so I assume sand was used as a proppant in order to keep the fractures open.

              • Paul Tresto. Yes, it says in later docs they used sand as the proppant. I am not sure it will help those worried about similar activities for the one well at Wressle. Maybe a bus trip to gainsbrough would be in order after lockdown and a coffee in Marshalls Yard, …the frack centre of the town.

                • I recall drilling a highly deviated well under someone’s land at Stockbridge, Hampshire, with Amoco in the mid 80’s and the landowner claimed his cows would stop producing milk…….He was right – they started to produce butter due to the vibration….cut out the middleman…

          • Could the EA mean that it’s the first time they’ve issued a permit since the 1st October 2013, the date when new onshore oil and gas facilities became required to hold environment permits for activities such as acidising, fracking, etc. Or is it the 1st since April 2016 when they announced that existing onshore oil and gas facilities would also require the permits for those activities?

    • Iaith1720. How would it look if they re defined it after? Would that be better? (Although the moratorium did not appply to Wressle as noted on DOD comments passim and at the review in Scunthorpe ( as i remember it was mentioned at the time and discussed over coffee at a reasonable price). Sono surprises. I expect someone to mention shale though just to keep the ball rolling.

  3. Maybe, to make certain there was clarity, 1720.

    Mr. Stafford has now received that clarification.

    Everyone is happy. Well, most are.

    • There you go!

      Most are still happy, a few wish to muddy the waters. Par for this course.

      Would a proppant squeeze under a field of maize end up with more red diesel or more vegetable oil??

      Could be quite an issue, as they are so difficult to tell apart!

      Enjoy.

      Meanwhile, will Wressle produce, and just like red diesel, become an item within UK taxation? Much more interesting, and possibly somewhat more influential than recovery bonds. (Seems some UK companies are trying to assist a recovery without bonds. Perhaps MPs should be trying to support them?)

      Hope it does, and then the locals may recover part of the £400k stolen from them by the antis. After paying out the precepts, not too many would be after bonds anyway!

      • Well, currently there is “concern” about proppant squeeze, about coal mining in Cumbria, about interconnectors (Aquind) and about off shore wind farms (Vanguard) to add to the numerous other ones about solar farms, on shore wind and nuclear in UK!

        Energy and UK whingers akin to moths to a flame, if you would excuse the pun. Follow all these “concerns” and the UK population will have to rely upon global warming accelerating in order to survive. Maybe that’s why Ministers (should) do their job and MPs can concentrate upon their own local issues in order to get re-elected?

        • Martin Not to worry eh. More questions asked yet people already know the answer (but politics loves such sort of questions), arm chair pundits lost in the nomenclature and more people ‘concerned’ about stuff. We should come back to it after its all done, when I suspect that nothing happens, and the nodding donkey keeps extracting a bit of oil. Meanwhile, no need to look abroad for excitement, when fracked fields already exist – without trouble just up t’ road.

          Beckingham West (Nottinghamshire)
          Discovered in July 1985 by BP with production starting in October 1987. Formerly owned by Pentex Oil UK Ltd. Oil transported by pipeline to Gainsborough. The field is operated by IGas Energy which acquired Star Energy in 2011. Situated just off the A631 at Beckingham.[4] Known also as the Gainsborough-Beckingham oil field. Production is near the Beckingham Marshes’ RSPB nature reserve with daily production of 300 barrels of crude oil and 1 million cubic feet of natural gas. The gas is piped to a nearby power plant. The wells in the field were fracked using lower fluid volumes than used for Shale techniques. This method is similar to, but with lower volumes than hydraulic fracturing for the extraction of shale gas.[5]

          • Yep, not to worry. I don’t, but am told I should panic and be angry by a young morose uneducated Swede. (Maybe, not so young, but the target audience is.)
            Also some anti vaccers who are anti fracking. Perhaps for both, a taxation penalty could be applied, just like it is to the price of fags? Now, that would be a real good way to get all those undecided off the fence. Fortunately, not so many regarding the vaccination.

            I was excused the 15 minute wait, out in the cold, as the nurse had difficulty tracking me down within the NHS computer system (what’s new!) so, had a good opportunity to spend the time chatting about how things were going. Really impressive and followed the same for last years flu jab. Just passed the 3 week mark myself, but will hold back on Tinder registration! (Other sites are available.) Tried to get the Pfizer jab to help my pension from them, but the nurse switched to AZ just before mine.

            I recall when I needed to go to yellow fever problem areas, I had to have a vaccination. Suspect the same will emerge regarding Covid-19. Maybe no grouping of protestors unless all vaccinated?

            I recall when I ran an office in Lincoln no one even knew about the sites around them, and when informed had no issues. Quite different to the pollution caused by the missile sites from the Cold War era. Many locals knew about that, and were not so happy but accepted they had been there because of the V bombers making them a target. Now, there was an issue to be worried about.

  4. We have been here before, several times in the past in fact.
    The term “proppant squeeze” is nothing more than a conflation of unrelated words, it has no engineering definition.

    The term is only is proposed because it is intended to avoid the word “fracking” altogether.

    However, to be absolutely certain under the oil and and gas industries own dictionaries, it can easily be seen that:-

    a) Proppant squeeze is not an engineering term in the oil and gas industry.
    b) Proppant squeeze as a combined term does not exist in any oil and gas industry engineering dictionary.
    c) Without an oil and gas industry definition, no agreement can be made as to whether it falls inside, or outside, the term “fracking” or even falls inside or outside of the present fracking moratorium.

    This is from one oil industry dictionary.

    “proppant”
    1. n. [Well Workover and Intervention, Shale Gas] Sized particles mixed with fracturing fluid to hold fractures open after a hydraulic fracturing treatment. In addition to naturally occurring sand grains, man-made or specially engineered proppants, such as resin-coated sand or high-strength ceramic materials like sintered bauxite, may also be used. Proppant materials are carefully sorted for size and sphericity to provide an efficient conduit for production of fluid from the reservoir to the wellbore.”

    https://www.glossary.oilfield.slb.com/en/search#q=proppant&sort=relevancy

    “squeeze”
    A detailed definition search for the words “proppant squeeze” as one combined isolated definition reveals no results that relate the two terms into a single oil and gas industry engineering definition. It simply does not exist as a combined term.

    https://www.glossary.oilfield.slb.com/en/Terms/s/squeeze.aspx

    https://www.glossary.oilfield.slb.com/en/search#q=proppant%20squeeze&sort=relevancy

    A definition search reveals no results other than individual words, but none in combination in the way it is given in the text.

    Conclusion:-

    There is a definition of “proppant” and a definition of “squeeze”. However there is no definition of “proppant squeeze” as a single engineering term. The two terms are unconnected and hence it is not an engineering definition, even in the oil industry.

    Therefore the term “proppant squeeze” cannot be agreed to, one way or the other, and does not fall outside of the limitations of the suspiciously altered definition of “fracking” which is unique to the UK.

    The origin of the term “fracking” actually is a cover all Americanisation of the word “fracturing”, (too many syllables perhaps?) sometimes called “fraccing” in order to avoid the increasingly unpopular word “fracking” all together.

    Therefore the unrelated words “proppant” and “squeeze” would indeed fall into the description of the term “fracturing” in the original American meaning of the resulting term “fracking”, regardless of the attempts to make a special case for the volume of fluid per fracturing stage, or of the volume of fluid used during the whole fracking process, to be outside of the conditions:-

    Until a full engineering definition of the words proppant and squeeze, as combined into one single definition, are verified in the oil and gas industries own engineering dictionaries. The words “proppant” and “squeeze” simply do not exist as a combined term, and cannot be agreed to in any meaningful way whatsoever.

    Simple as that. The OGA and the EA need to step in and require an engineering definition of the combined words “proppant” and “squeeze” as a process that can be verified as being inside, or outside of the moratorium definition by the operator and the OGA and EA as a matter of urgency.

    The danger is that any action can be taken by an operator that might otherwise come under the moratorium, just to avoid the term “fracking”.

    So in calling it “proppant squeeze”, an engineering description of the process cannot be investigated because it does not exist as a definitive engineering process. Anything could be carried out under that terminology.

    It might as well be called “propper sneeze” for all the sense it makes?

    “Proppant squeeze” is therefore, a sort of “Get Out Of Shale Free” term you might say….

  5. “The definition, originally used by the European Union, was included in the 2015 Infrastructure Act and inserted in the Petroleum Act 1998. It comprises operations that use 1,000m3 of fluid per fracturing stage or 10,000m3 of fluid during the whole fracking process.”

    “definition of “fracking” which is unique to the UK”??? Has the EU changed it’s definition PhilC?

    Proppant squeeze may not be defined in a dictionary however such an operation is fairly common and I have supervised several of these operations. Small volume, above fracture pressure, low pump rate. No big deal…. mind you I don’t ever recall looking at an oilfield dictionary during my career.

  6. Paul Tresto. Thanks for your comment, however just to clarify the legal and oilfield engineering definition of the relevant terminology, the following additional information is supplied for your information.

    From Ruth’s Drill or Drop text above:- (apologies for the copy and paste Ruth)

    “This injects fluid and proppant into a rock formation to improve the flow of hydrocarbons. The Environment Agency (EA) regards it as a form of low-volume fracking because the injection pressure is high enough to fracture rocks.”

    “The process is expected to be used by Egdon Resources to improve oil flows at its site at Wressle near Scunthorpe.”

    “The minister said the moratorium applied to operations defined as associated hydraulic fracturing that required Hydraulic Fracturing Consent from the secretary of state for business, energy and industrial Strategy.”

    “The definition, originally used by the European Union, was included in the 2015 Infrastructure Act and inserted in the Petroleum Act 1998. It comprises operations that use 1,000m3 of fluid per fracturing stage or 10,000m3 of fluid during the whole fracking process.”

    That text above refers to the unrelated oilfield dictionary engineering terms “proppant” and “squeeze”. The terms “proppant” and “squeeze” which, when combined, have no legal or engineering definition.

    However, the definition of what is, and what is not legally termed as “fracking” is indeed unique to UK and is “”unusual in global terms” (see the link below). What is unique to the UK and is excused from being called “fracking” is the limitation of the operating parameters as in the link shown:-

    Fracking: Tamboran to use ‘conventional’ drilling in shale gas search (18 October 2020)

    https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-54576103

    Quote:-
    “He (Professor Stuart Haszeldine, a geologist at the University of Edinburgh School of GeoSciences) also points out that the legal definition of fracking in the UK is “unusual in global terms” as it refers to the volume of water put into the ground.”

    “If you put less than a certain volume of water and pump it up and break the rock, because you’ve put a small volume of water in then that’s not defined legally in the UK as fracking.”

    There are many other reports and oilfield engineering dictionaries indicating exactly the same information if you wish to confirm that by research. In the USA. What is excused from the termed “fracking” in the UK, would be called “fracking” “fraccing” or “fracturing” in the USA.

    I trust that clarifies the legal and oilfield definitions for you.

    Have a nice day.

      • Hi Paul Tresto, precisely, as you say, the word “fracking” in its original USA definition, but not as used in the UK, has a unique and quite specific, though lazy interpretation. As to whether the loose and innacurate term “fracking” is, as used in the UK, is to be judged as being within, or outside of the fracking moratorium in the UK is only confused by the conflation of different meanings of the same word in the USA and the UK. The uses of the term is different in the USA as in the UK useage.

        The original, and it could be said the definitive description and meaning essentially overules any subsequent redefinition anywhere else or in any attempt to modify the meaning. The UK definition of “fracking” is based upon operational parameters unique to the UK, as demonstrated above, by Professor Stuart Haszeldine, a geologist at the University of Edinburgh School of GeoSciences, and therfore the USA definition overules the attempted loose definition in the UK, and encompasses that loose non engineering term as being within the “fracking” moratorium in the UK, not outside of it.

        It could be said that legally and within the oilfield engineering parameters as set out in the USA, that the word “fracking” meaning Hydraulic Fracturing also known as Hydraulic Fracture Stimulation. The UK useage, is therefore not “fracking” at all, and must be called something else, the original term having been already taken by the USA oilfield engineering parameters which precisely define the word in its oilfield engineering meaning.

        The same can be said for the words “proppant” and “squeeze” when used as a combined term. The original oilfield engineering terms having already been defined in the USA, and therefore are already taken as meaning something else that the combined term in the UK does not comply with.

        As you say, the original USA terminology defines the operational parameters precisely and accurately as you say, that is as you say, is termed as Hydraulic Fracturing also known as Hydraulic Fracture Stimulation. Wheras you see the full terminology and therefore the full oilfield engineering and legal terminology is rarely, if ever used in the UK, even by the OGA and the EA, and certainly not by Anne-Marie Trevelyan.

        Therin, it may be said, lies the rub.

        It is therefore important for the OGA and the EA, and certainly Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the energy minister, that the terminology that seeks to precisely redefine the loose and innacurate terminologies in their own definitions in order be used in the original USA meaning of the correct oilfield engineering descriptions and meanings.

        Otherwise these oft used but technically weak and ill defined loose terms are only too easy to be misleading and innacurate as to the precise engineering interpretation of the operational parameters.

        That is precisely why the terms “proppant” and “squeeze” when combined into one term, have no oilfield engineering definition, and cannot be used to make any decision about whether or not, those misleading and innacurate loose combined erronous labels have any legal, or oilfield engineering viability for any such decision at all.

        Fascinating isnt it.

        Of course there are those to whom any real world definition of any word at all, is completely and utterly lost to, which is quite sad really, but only too common and fixatedly repetitive it seems.

        Shame?

        Never mind, the real world truth will out, one way or the other.

  7. Its always important to look at the events around the world to ascertain whether or not any oil and gas operation is safe to be used in the UK at all.

    Fire at Oil and Gas Waste Site Raises Safety Concerns Around Possible Radioactive Accidents

    https://www.desmogblog.com/2021/02/18/fire-oil-gas-waste-petta-dallas-pike-safety-radioactivity

    Which of course raises all the old demons about safety and the competence of the operators, particularly when in the UK at least, the operators, the government and the OGA/EA cant even get the terminology and operational parameters correct. How are we to judge whether the operations are even safe or effective if we have no reliable oilfield engineering terminology to even decide what is, or is not within any moratorium?

    [Typo corrected at poster’s request]

    • Phil C
      No demons to be seen here in the well regulated UK? And well understood engineering nomenclature (fracked wells)

      Beckingham West (Nottinghamshire)
      Discovered in July 1985 by BP with production starting in October 1987. Formerly owned by Pentex Oil UK Ltd. Oil transported by pipeline to Gainsborough. The field is operated by IGas Energy which acquired Star Energy in 2011. Situated just off the A631 at Beckingham.[4] Known also as the Gainsborough-Beckingham oil field. Production is near the Beckingham Marshes’ RSPB nature reserve with daily production of 300 barrels of crude oil and 1 million cubic feet of natural gas. The gas is piped to a nearby power plant. The wells in the field were fracked using lower fluid volumes than used for Shale techniques. This method is similar to, but with lower volumes than hydraulic fracturing for the extraction of shale gas.[5]

      Locals not worried says BBC (and locals)

      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-23756320

      Now then – did they use a proppant in the fracking? More later no doubt.

      • No, Hewes62, wrong again, the wider aspects of further exploration and extraction of fossil fuels do indeed raise far more fundamental problems for the human race and the planet Earth’s ecosystems. The reality of the sixth major extinction event on planet Earth and the fact that fossil fuel pollution is responsible for one in five deaths worldwide apply to the examples you provide there as much as everywhere else.

        Extract from:- comments section on:- Judge “radically scales back” UKOG protest injunction.

        Apologies for reproducing this Ruth, but rather than rewriting it, its better to just copy and paste an extract to illustrate the point..

        Phil C
        February 10, 2021 at 8:48 am

        “The human race has precipitated this latest sixth extinction event in just a few hundred years, and that is totally unprecedented in the history of planet Earth. Not to mention the apparent greed and power ridden insane Death Cult genocidal attitude of certain factions within the so called civilisations throughout history.

        In fact it is those extinction events that have undoubtedly caused the resulting dead organic matter that has caused the fossil fuel deposits to exist at all in planet Earth. And that memory and legacy should remain as a lesson to us all, not be dredged up for greed and profit.

        So what has the legacy of the use of hundreds of years of fossil fuels dredged up from millions of years old flora fauna and minerals given us?

        The sixth major extinction event of all life on planet Earth.

        Air pollution from fossil fuels ‘responsible for one in five deaths worldwide’
        https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/uknews/air-pollution-from-fossil-fuels-e2-80-98responsible-for-one-in-five-deaths-worldwide-e2-80-99/ar-BB1dwp9Z

        Fossil fuel air pollution blamed for 1 in 5 deaths worldwide each year
        https://www.msn.com/en-us/weather/top stories/fossil-fuel-air-pollution-blamed-for-1-in-5-deaths-worldwide-each-year/ar-BB1dxhUL

        Air pollution from fossil fuel emissions responsible for 1 in 5 premature deaths: Harvard report
        https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/09/fossil-fuel-emissions-cause-1-in-5-deaths-globally-report.html

        Perhaps this latest pandemic situation could well be closely attributed to the very sixth extinction event that has been caused by our continued use of fossil fuels, as the effect is the decimation of animal life populations driving them into fight or flight syndrome, which is a well known immunological response damaging cause of disease and that draws the them closer to human beings because of the destruction of their natural environments. So in spite of all the evidence of the dangers of continuation of the use of polluting fossil fuels and 1 in five deaths being related to fossil fuel pollution amongst human beings, let alone wildlife. That further exploration and extraction of fossil fuels is still advocated in spite of all the evidence of how much of this sixth extinction is attributable to fossil fuel use alone.”

        The reality of the sixth extinction event and one in five deaths being caused by fossil fuel pollution worldwide situation which includes the proffered example of Beckingham West (Nottinghamshire) is in fact very far from a victimless crime, and cannot be so minimised as is suggested.

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