Council officials refused a request by IGas to abandon one of its wells in Lincolnshire this weekend because the rig that would have been used breached planning rules.
The company applied 10 days ago for permission to abandon well A31 that was no longer needed at the Welton-A site, near the village of Scothern.
The breach came to light when IGas emailed the above photo of the rig to Lincolnshire planners. The company confirmed that the rig, already on site to carry out other work, measured 31.5m high.
Rules for maintenance work on oil and gas sites prohibit any structure on the site above 15 m without previous approval, which IGas had not sought.
Lincolnshire planners told IGas:
“It has now been identified that the drill rig on site exceeds that permitted without seeking prior approval and that in the absence of that approval the use of this rig and ancillary lighting is deemed in breach of existing planning controls and as a consequence it is not possible to retrospectively grant prior approval.”
The planners said they had not had an opportunity “to control the development in the interests of protecting the visual appearance and character of the open countryside and to minimise possible disturbance to residents in the locality”.
They also noted that IGas said the rig would be removed at the “beginning of the week commencing 20 December 2021”.
IGas had wanted consent to abandon well A-31 from 7am-7pm on Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 December 2021. This was outside normal hours, restricted by planning permission to 7am-1pm on Saturdays and no work on Sundays.
The company also sought permission to install four 9m high lighting towers to be used from 4.30pm-7pm and 7am-8am. The current planning permission prohibits additional external lighting beyond that already installed without the consent of planners.
The Welton A site, off Sudbrooke Road, has 15 active wells. The Welton field is the second biggest onshore oil producer in the UK, after Wytch Farm in Dorset. Data for the most recent month (August 2021) shows that Welton produced 3.07% of UK onshore production.