Oil company criticised over online consultation for site expansion plans

Rathlin Energy has been asked to remove immediately all images, logos, and references to Zero Carbon Humber from its online exhibition about plans to expand a local oil site.

The company has also been criticised by a county councillor for failing to carry out “full, transparent and open public consultation”.

Extract from Rathlin Energy online exhibition on the contribution of West Newton-A expansion to net zero

The exhibition, which went live this morning, said plans for six more oil wells and long-term production at the West Newton-A well site in Holderness would:

“support the decarbonisation of the region by supplying a locally sourced lower carbon intensity feedstock”.

The reference was on a section headed “What net zero means locally”. The exhibition included a graphic for Zero Carbon Humber (ZCH), an initiative to decarbonise the Humber region and build the world’s first zero carbon industrial cluster. Rathlin also included a description of the ZCH proposals and logos of key players.

But Zero Carbon Humber said an image had been used without permission and was incorrect and out-of-date.

A ZCH spokesperson told DrillOrDrop:

“there is no link whatsoever between Rathlin Energy, nor any of its partners or the West Newton project, and the Zero Carbon Humber project. They are not partners and have no role within the partnership.

“Nor is there any endorsement of the West Newton project by Zero Carbon Humber or any of its partners.

“No permission has been sought or granted for the use of Zero Carbon Humber imagery (which also happens to be incorrect and out-of-date), logos (including partner logos) or any other references or mentions. Rathlin and their partners have been asked to remove these immediately.”

DrillOrDrop invited Rathlin Energy to comment on today’s criticisms from Zero Carbon Humber. We will update this article with any response from the company.

“Purely online is not the way forward”

The exhibition, which is online for a week until Monday 29 March, has also been criticised by Jacob Birch, a local county councillor.

He said he had “significant concerns” about the consultation period and the online exhibition.

Rathlin said it was preparing to submit a planning application to East Riding of Yorkshire Council for the site expansion. Under normal circumstances, it said, it would stage a physical exhibition, but this was not possible because of the Covid-19 outbreak.

In a letter to the company, Councillor Birch said:

“I appreciate COVID has had dampeners on face to face consultation but purely online is not the way forward.

“I have many elderly residents whom are not as tech savvy as some.

“Some may have access to the online site but many [will] not feel confident in making comments on there.”

Cllr Birch said there was no paper version for people who needed this format and no phone number for feedback. He also said the duration of the exhibition should be extended to at least a calendar month. He added:

“Rathlin Energy UK should not proceed with any planning applications without full, transparent and open public consultation, which is not what is being offered here.

“Therefore I suggest that Rathlin Energy UK revisit this attempt to consult the public so it is more open and fair.”

DrillOrDrop reported earlier this month that Cllr Birch had asked the local government secretary to rule on whether the planning application would include an environmental impact assessment (EIA). This follows a decision by planners at East Riding of Yorkshire Council that an EIA was not needed. The minister’s decision is expected before the end of March.

Rathlin Energy said the aim of the exhibition was to gather as much feedback as possible to inform the planning application.

The company said there were advantages to the online exhibition:

  • It was open 24-hours a day for a total of 168 hours, as opposed to the normal six hours of a physical exhibition.
  • It could fitted around work, transport and childcare and other personal commitments
  • There was no travel needed to get to the venue and no travel time or costs
  • Repeat visits were possible

Rathlin said printed information could be posted to people who did not have internet access.

Drilling and production plans

Drilling at Rathlin Energy’s West Newton-B site. Photo: West Newton and Sproately Gateway to the Gasfields

The exhibition, which combines text and videos, said the West Newton-A expansion would allow wells to be drilled and oil produced simultaneously.

The six new wells would be drilled in a row, with the well heads below the surface. This would mean a drilling rig could move easily from one well to the next. Each well would take about 15 weeks to drill, the exhibition said.

Rathlin said the drilling rig would be up to 55m high. If the maximum sized rig were used, it would be almost 20m higher than the rig allowed for Cuadrilla’s fracking site at Preston New Road. There, the local government secretary limited the height to 36m (appeal decision).

The two existing wells at West Newton-A had revealed the presence of “a significant hydrocarbon accumulation” in the Kirkham Abbey rock formation, the exhibition said. Additional wells were now needed to “optimise the recovery of the oil and gas resource in place to help meet the UK’s continued demand”.

The wells would be drilled laterally to target the oil reservoir from a 2km radius. Multiple wells would allow “optimisation of production facilities such as storage tanks, process and delivery systems”.

Rathlin said it was preferable, “from an environmental and cumulative impact perspective”, to expand an existing site, rather than build new ones. Last year, however, the company constructed and drilled the West Newton-B site nearby and announced plans for two new sites in the area, to be called West Newton-C and West Newton-D.


Rathlin said it expected to produce oil and small amounts of associated gas and water from West Newton A. The oil would be taken off the site by tanker and the gas burned in a flare. The company said:

“incineration has been commonly used throughout the industry and other industries and is an established and safe approach to the management of waste gas”.

From 2025, the government’s climate change advisor, the Climate Change Committee, said flaring on onshore and offshore oil and gas fields should be permitted only for safety reasons.

Rathlin said in the exhibition that flaring at West Newton was likely to happen in 2022-2024. It estimated the weight of carbon dioxide produced from flaring would be 20,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e). This was said to be the “equivalent of 0.1%-0.2% of the UK fuel supply carbon budget”.

The company added that it would consider whether to build a pipeline to move oil to a refinery and whether to generate electricity from waste gas.


The exhibition also sought to address local concerns about lorry traffic to an expanded West Newton-A.

The company had previously said there would be 20-25 tanker visits a day during production. The exhibition said this was a “worst-case scenario based on a high case of returning hydrocarbons”.

It said:

“The reality for hydrocarbon production is that it undergoes a natural decline over time. This is due to the natural reduction in pressures and flow from the sub surface formation. As a result the number of tanker movements will reflect the production decline over time as the volume of hydrocarbon is reduced.”

A graph, which assumed all eight wells produced at the same time, showed daily tanker visits starting at 25 in year 1 and declining to 17 in year 2, 10 in year 3, 6 in year 4 and 5 in year 5. The curve then fell steadily until year 10, before flattening out to year 24.

Other details

The exhibition also said:

  • Additional site entrance
  • Soil bunds would “provide a visual barrier” and “some protection” for nearby residents
  • Hydrochloric acid would be used to “clean up” the wellbore after drilling
  • Well tests would confirm the presence of oil and gas, composition and ability to flow
  • Tests would use a 35m workover rig or crane to lower tools into the well
  • If oil did not flow naturally, Rathlin would use pumps or nitrogen
  • 490 tonnes of crude oil or produced water would be stored on the site

Rathlin Energy’s exhibition is not a statutory consultation. East Riding of Yorkshire will hold a formal public consultation when the planning application for West Newton-A has been submitted and validated.

12 replies »

  1. Another Mickey Mouse outfit who think they can do as they like, dead industry milking punters who think they are getting rich 🤑

  2. The company has also been criticised by a county councillor for failing to carry out “full, transparent and open public consultation”.

    It the company has put it on its web site it doesn’t get more public than that. & given the current pandemic What would you suggest Councillor ?

  3. And who they are required to consult? 🙂 Empty fields all around.

    Ohh I know, only British ‘not in my backyard’ oil users are interested.

  4. ‘Gasman’ – if you read the report you will see what they suggest – a paper version and a phone number to request a copy.

    • The online exhibition will be followed and backed up with a letter drop to local residents and further communication through the CLG. North Yorkshire residents could always supply a SAE to Rathlin for their copy.

        • Local ones don’t have to Jono, as Rathlin have posted information leaflets regarding the West Newton A expansion proposals to them.

          While we are on the subject of costs, why should local council tax payers be held responsible for the clean up costs of the West Newton B ‘monitoring’ camp?

          Despite the propaganda photos posted claiming otherwise. Contractors working for the Highways enforcement service had to be used to remove two caravans that had been abandoned, and a team from the street cleaning department had to attend to remove the waste left by the activists.

  5. I don’t remember the councillor voicing any similar concerns over the shorter 5 day online only exhibition for the West Newton C &D planning proposals, that was held during last October prior to the second lockdown in England.

  6. Well, I think that most found the on line completion of the Census quite straight forward. Perhaps the postmen would welcome some extra work, but I suspect not.

  7. Hmmmm

    The Councillor says – –

    “I appreciate COVID has had dampeners on face to face consultation but purely online is not the way forward.

    “I have many elderly residents whom are not as tech savvy as some.

    “Some may have access to the online site but many [will] not feel confident in making comments on there.”

    Pretty aegist comment I think, especially as my step father in law was an on line warrior up to being 97.

    But – Looks familiar, as its the same line used for planning applications, where people are against them.

  8. Hi Ruth,

    It seems that Rathlin Energy have now been given permission to use, and Rathlin have updated their images to reflect the newer up to date images.

    “Footnote: Rathlin Energy (UK) Limited has given a commitment to positively support the decarbonisation of the region by supplying a locally sourced, lower carbon intense, product to the Humber cluster. The company used some publicly available information from Zero Carbon Humber to illustrate this point in our online event. Having since spoken with a representative from Zero Carbon Humber, the exhibition material has been updated to reflect the wider carbon capture and storage sector rather than just detailing one individual scheme. We would like to thank Zero Carbon Humber for their constructive advice.”

    I also found it odd that the ZCH said “there is no link whatsoever between Rathlin Energy, nor any of its partners or the West Newton project, and the Zero Carbon Humber project!” considering a quick search of the the ZCH website shows Reabold Resources logos on their own website and includes letters from Reabold in support on their website. So there has been some previous support and exchange between the partners and ZCH.

    Click to access v13.pdf

    Logo on page 3
    Letter on page 57

    All the best

    Chris Hutch

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