Rathlin Energy to revise major production plans for West Newton well site

Rathlin Energy is revising production plans for its West Newton-A well site in Holderness, after East Yorkshire councillors refused planning permission earlier this year.

Rathlin Energy’s West Newton-A site, 19 November 2021. Photo: Used with the owner’s consent

In a statement this morning, the company said a new planning application would be submitted by the end of 2021.

The scheme, which was the largest set of onshore oil and gas proposals in recent years, was rejected on grounds that it was an inappropriate scale for the local landscape and out of character. Councillors voted against the advice of planning officers.

Rathlin Energy had proposed to treble the footprint of the site, drill an additional six wells, taking the total to eight, and produce hydrocarbons for 20 years.

Today, the company said it was continuing to receive legal advice on whether to appeal against the refusal. But it added:

“Having received the decision document explaining the reasons for refusal, we are now working on a revised approach for the proposed development, in line with the comments made by council representatives.

“Taking on board the concerns regarding the scale of the development, and other points raised by the local community, we now intend to submit a new application, with the intent of addressing the scale of the development by reducing the site footprint and reducing the number of wells to be drilled.”

The company has not revealed how many wells it now plans to drill at West Newton-A and said it would not be answering any questions from DrillOrDrop.

Yesterday, the Environment Agency published plans for a variation to the environmental permit for West Newton-A. This included details of a further six boreholes, as well as sidetracks and lateral wells to new and existing wells. The expanded footprint appeared to be the same as in the previous planning application.

We put questions to Rathlin Energy about the permit variation but it did not respond.

In today’s statement, the company said:

“We will also be providing a more detailed landscape and planting proposal to enhance the screening of the site and will examine more extensively the potential for passing places along Pasture Lane and other traffic management proposals.

“The revised timeline for approving our application will now allow us to present our development in more detail and to provide additional information to you and the committee.”

The previous planning permission has expired at West Newton-A and the company should have restored the site by 19 November 2021.

Link to public consultation on environmental permit variation

Extension sought at West Newton-B

West Newton-B well site. Photo: West Newton and Sproatley Gateway to the Gasfields

Rathlin Energy is also seeking to extend the life of its nearby West Newton-B site, where planning permission runs out in April 2022.

On that site, Rathlin Energy said this morning:

“Despite our continued operational efforts since site construction was initiated, it is unlikely that the originally proposed work scope will be finished before the expiration date. We therefore we will be applying to East Riding of Yorkshire Council to vary this condition.”

The original permission for West Newton-B was granted in 2015, allowing 24 months of work.

Site construction began in April 2020 and the first well was drilled in October 2020.

The secondary target, the Cadeby formation, showed “insufficient reservoir development”, the company said. Planners later said the target had been missed.

A sidetrack well, drilled in November 2020, “exceeded expectations with substantial hydrocarbon accumulation”, one of Rathlin’s partners said.

But it later emerged that suspected formation damage, possibly caused by what was described as “aggressive completion” of the well, limited hydrocarbon flow in the well.

In January 2021, investors were told a second well at West Newton-B would be drilled in the second half of the year. But the work was never carried out.

Rathlin said today:

“The original development was approved to allow for two wells to be drilled and tested, and after the encouraging results from the West Newton B1z well, as well as the A site wells, we are requesting further time to drill and test the second well at the site. The application will not make any changes to the proposed development activity.

“We will aim to submit this application by the end of the year so that the West Newton A and West Newton B applications can run along the same timeline.”

Rathlin said hydrocarbons would “continue to play an ongoing and essential role in UK, for both energy supply and as a raw material, now and for the next generation of East Riding of Yorkshire residents and businesses”.

At this month’s climate talks in Glasgow, the UK committed to reducing its carbon emissions by 45% by 2030.

Rathlin Energy said:

“Over the next 25 years there will be a co-ordinated and concerted effort to reduce emissions and we are absolutely committed to supporting the UK government in this transition phase.

It said “using locally sourced resources will not only help to reduce the risks associated with being a net hydrocarbon importer, but it will also act as a more environmentally friendly stepping-stone to support the evolution to a more sustainable future”.

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