IGas has announced it will not appeal against the recent refusal of planning permission at its shale gas site in Misson, Nottinghamshire. The wellpad will now be restored.
Local campaigners have described the news as a “triumph of community commitment, citizen science and courage”.
The announcement means there will be no shale gas sites in the east midlands, often described by the industry as “a world-class resource”.
IGas had wanted to extend the life of Misson site, known as Springs Road, until November 2023 while it sought to overturn the moratorium on fracking in England.
But in July 2021, Nottinghamshire County Councillors voted to refuse consent and said the site, which is next to a nature reserve, must be restored.
The decision, by 12 votes and one abstention, went against the advice of planning officers.
Wildlife organisations, local councils, campaign groups and more than 70 people had submitted objections to the application. There were no public comments in support.
DrillOrDrop understands that IGas informed the Springs Road community liaison group (CLG) today that it would not be seeking an appeal. The company said:
“Following the refusal of the planning applications, IGas has, along with its partners, been considering its options for the future of the Land.
“It has recently been decided that IGas will not exercise its rights of appeal against the decisions of Nottinghamshire County Council.
“Accordingly it is IGas’s intention to restore the Land in accordance with condition 5 of planning permission 1/15/01498/CDM as set out in the planning application documents.”
IGas said the timing of the restoration would be affected by the bird breeding season and the availability of a rig and specialist contractors. The company added:
“IGas will work with Nottinghamshire County Council’s Officers to ensure that the site is restored as required and in a timeous manner.”
Peter Edwards, chair of the CLG, said this afternoon:
“It is great news that IGas has decided to comply with the planning decision and restore the site because previous statements from the company had said they were keeping their options open.”
Frack Free Misson, which has campaigned against IGas’s activities at Springs Road, said:
“Misson has battled with IGas for eight years against their plans for exploratory fracking.
“In July Nottinghamshire County Council Planning Committee stood up to this industry and refused their application for a three-year extension. Today we celebrate the news that IGas has decided not to appeal and to restore the site.
“This is a triumph of community commitment, citizen science and courage.
“Many organisations have supported our tiny village in this fight. Hundreds of people have joined us in this David and Goliath marathon. We thank everyone who gave so much in so many ways as Frack Free Misson took on the oil and gas industry.
“Tonight, the endangered species on the SSSI and the community will sleep easily.”
DrillOrDrop asked IGas to comment on the decision. This article will be updated with any response.
The Misson site has been mothballed since 2019 after IGas drilled the first of two permitted wells to explore for shale gas.
The site is on a former bombing range and test area for cold war Bloodhound surface to air missiles.
It is next to the Misson Carr site of special scientific interest (SSSI), a large wetland fen that is home to all five species of British owl, as well as other rare and threatened birds, plans and insects.
Last month, IGas said the Springs Road well had proved that the Gainsborough Trough shale gas area had “a world-class resource”. The company said in interim accounts:
“We still believe the Springs Road site is of national importance and we therefore applied to extend the operational period of the site for a further three years while discussions continue with the UK Government and regulators.
“In July 2021, despite a recommendation by the Planning Officer, the planning committee at Nottinghamshire County Council voted against the extension. We are considering our options along with our partners including our right to bring forward an appeal.”
But there were possible hints earlier this month that Ineos, the partner in the Springs Road site, might have a different view.
The strategic report for Ineos Upstream Limited for the year ending 31 December 2020, referred to the Springs Road-1 well and the results of that drilling. It said:
“the initial gas readings provide an encouraging technical perspective with which to view the wider basin; however the section was considered too thin for the site to be considered as a host to further horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracture stimulation.”
Ineos declined to explain what appeared to be a contradictory view of Springs Road. It also did not confirm whether the quoted section referred to Springs Road or another shale gas site at Tinker Lane, which was restored in 2019 after the well failed to find its primary target.
Calls for lifting of fracking moratorium
Despite today’s decision, IGas remains the operator of the Misson exploration and development licence, PEDL139.
If the moratorium on fracking in England were lifted, the company could seek an alternative site in PEDL139 and apply for permission to frack and produce shale gas.
There have been renewed calls by some in the shale gas industry for an end to the moratorium in response to increasing world gas prices.
Katherine Gray, a spokesperson for the industry group, UK Onshore Oil & Gas, said:
“It’s bizarre when just a mile under northern and central England lies a gas resource so immense that if we extracted just 10 per cent, we could meet the UK’s gas demand for 50 years.”
Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla, said:
“Importing shale gas by ship from all corners of the globe, whilst leaving our own shale gas resources unexplored and undeveloped, is symptomatic of the misjudged approach that has led us to this point.”
But Simon Cran-McGreehin, head of analysis at the think tank, the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said:
”Reheating the shale gas debate will not solve the gas crisis
“Shale economics don’t work in the UK, and fracking is unpopular. Renewables and insulation are the way to limit bills and help New Zero [carbon emissions].”
Frack Free Lancashire, which campaigned against Cuadrilla’s shale gas operations at Preston New Road, said:
“The science doesn’t change to suit opportunists, and it hasn’t changed. Fracking is still as unacceptable as ever, given the geological and environmental conditions here in the UK.
“What has changed temporarily is the global price of gas. Even if the frackers had been 100% successful here in the UK, what they could have achieved would have had zero impact on today’s problems.
“As it transpired, they were 100% unsuccessful and not a therm of gas has been fracked commercially from the Bowland Shale after 10 years.
“We understand that UKOOG have to try to justify their own existence but they really do need to try harder if they want to be taken seriously.”
Lapses and refusals
The Misson decision was one of three refusals of planning permission this year.
Councillors turned applications by Angus Energy for an extended well test at Balcombe in West Sussex and Rathlin Energy for expansion and 20 years of oil production at its West Newton-A site in East Yorkshire. Angus Energy has since appealed against the Balcombe refusal.
Planning permission also lapsed at Ineos Upstream sites at Harthill in South Yorkshire and Bramleymoor Lane in Derbyshire.
Decisions are still awaited from the secretary of state on shale gas sites at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire (IGas) and Woodsetts in South Yorkshire (Ineos) following appeals.
The remaining shale gas site, at Preston New Road in Lancashire, has been described by its operator, Cuadrilla, as “largely non-operational”.