Rathlin Energy’s plans for expansion and production at its West Newton-A site have been published online.
The company was refused planning permission in September 2021 for a major increase in the size and role of the site in East Yorkshire. Councillors said the proposals were out of character and scale for the area.
The new planning application said it sought to address these issues. It proposed to:
- add four new wells to the existing two, instead of an extra six in the previous proposal
- almost double the site size, compared with the near trebling in the refused application
- add passing places on part of the lorry route
- plant trees and a hedgerow around the site edge
Like the previous application, the new proposals, which comprise 69 documents, still seek to produce oil and gas for up to 20 years.
DrillOrDrop reviewed the previous application. For this application, we have compared the new planning statement with the one submitted for the refused proposals. This post looks at some of the differences.
The existing site size is 0.9ha. The new proposal is to expand the area to 2.52ha, an increase of 180%. The previous application proposed a 284% increase to 3.46ha.
Rathlin said in the planning statement (p14)
“The proposed site extension area is approximately 40% smaller than the previously proposed extension area.”
This is incorrect. The new proposal is 27% smaller than the previous proposal. The previous proposal was 40% larger than the revised size.
Wells – targets and treatment
The new proposal still seeks to drill for oil and gas in the Permian age Kirkham Abbey formation.
But (p26) the new planning statement has deleted the word “conventional” from the reference to the two target reservoirs.
The new statement (p27) also deleted the casing sizes for the conductor drilling given in the previous application.
On well treatment, the planning statement (p42) says:
“The primary approach is to utilise acid to treat the wells”.
The previous planning statement continued “below the formation fracturing pressure. For the avoidance of misinterpretation, this is not an acid fracture stimulation”. In the current document, this has been deleted.
The previous application said two of the proposed six wells would target the Cadeby formation
The new planning statement said the Cadeby formation had “potential hydrocarbon resource” but “sufficient reservoir porosity and permeability had failed to materialise” in wells drilled at both the West Newton-A and the nearby West Newton-B site.
The document added:
“there is a limit to the viability of the Cadeby Formation as a development or appraisal target, due to the challenge in predicting reservoir and the seismic interpretation of the play with currently available information and techniques.”
Distances from homes and footpaths
The revised planning statement has reduced the distances of the nearest homes to the site (p38). According to the document, Blackbush Farm, was 625m in the previous application but is now 478m away. Caley Cottage is now 139m closer, Wood End Farm 52m and Old School House is 78m.
On p40, the new document has deleted the distances of nearby footpaths from the wellsite
Rathlin Energy said the reduction in the number of wells would have “a positive impact on the duration of drilling and testing operations” (p14) with a reduction in surface activities when compared to the previous application.
It said the drilling rig would be on site for a maximum of 17.5 months, down from 24 months in the previous application (p97).
Site construction work would be cut from 12 weeks to 10 weeks, according to changes in the planning statement (p45). Other revisions included the duration of conductor drilling, which the new document listed as 14-28 days per well, down from 28 days(p46), and well treatment, changed from 90 days in total to two weeks per well.
The reduction in the number of wells would have no impact on the proposed production phase because the previous application had not expected to produce from the Cadeby formation. Heavy goods vehicle (HGV) movements during production are unchanged.
HGV numbers The new planning statement said the reduction in the size of the extension would mean fewer HGVs needed to transport aggregate during site construction.
The document said the proposal would generate a maximum of 132 daily vehicle trips (66 arrivals and 66 departures). This was, it said, “broadly consistent” with the level of trips approved and generated during exploratory testing” at West Newton-A. During workovers, lorry numbers have been changed from 10 per day to “depends on maintenance requirement” (p54).
Passing places The revised proposals include several references to passing places that would be created on Pasture Lane between Burton Constable Road and Moor Lane. These were designed to prevent damage to existing verges and allow room for two vehicles to pass, the revised application said.
The passing places are outside the planning application site boundary so would be subject to agreement between Rathlin Energy and the council’s highways department, it added.
HGV routes The new application (p110) said all vehicle arrivals and departures would be “spread across two access/egress routes” On p60, the new document added information about the two proposed HGV routes: an orange (southern) and blue (northern) route. It said the blue route would be the same as that used for the existing exploration site, on the A165 via Langthorpe Road and east along Pipers Lane. The orange route would be via Burton Constable Road and Pipers Lane. It added:
“Traffic management plans will be used to, when appropriate, ensure the traffic is distributed using the two routes”
The planning statement added (p103) that noise arising from the site was acceptable “in accordance with the relevant British Standards, national and local planning policy”.
On p111, it said the wellsite would not “generate an unacceptable adverse effect from traffic on adjacent land users”.
It also added (p103) that wellsite traffic in Mulberry Lane, Lambwath Road and Burton Constable Road would lead to a “negligible to minor” increase in traffic noise.
However, it deleted a previous reference in this section to Sproatley village and Pasture Lane. It also deleted the previous comment that the increase in noise was likely to be minimal.
Landscape and planting
The new planning statement said 5,150 locally indigenous native trees, including holly, would be planted on the perimeter mounds around the site as screening (p100). Large trees would also be planted at the site entrance, the statement added (p101).
As the trees matured, the wellsite would become “fully assimilated with its surroundings”, the new planning statement said (p97). From a distance it was “likely to be perceived as a small woodland plantation” (p99). The words “better assimilated” in the previous statement have been deleted.
The new statement also added that 290m of native hedgerow would be planted around the southern and eastern edge of the wellsite to soften the appearance of the 2.4m high perimeter fence. 660m of existing hedgerows would be augmented to screen the site from the east.
The new document added that from nearby public footpaths only the gas flare stack would be visible over the vegetation (p98). The maximum height of processing equipment was reduced from 8m to 5m.
A sentence in the previous planning statement that the security fence, cameras, lighting and access gates may have an urbanising effect on the rural views has been deleted. The new version deleted an artist’s impression of the production site and a sentence which said “there is no inter-visibility between the WNA wellsite and the other wellsites in the locality”.
The new planning statement added that the “vicinity of the well site is not prized for its recreational or amenity value” (p99).
It also said the surrounding countryside hosted other energy developments, such as the Withernwick windfarm, Tansterne power station (previously referred to as a biomass plant) and Aldborough gas storage facility.
On p64, the document added a comment on the proposal:
“It is of a scale and form that respects the intrinsic character of its surroundings and a reduced scale of development when compared to the previously refused application”.
Hazards and waste
The new planning statement inserted a section on the Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations (p30). It expected the site would be a lower tier COMAH with less strict requirements.
On waste, it added that natural gas would be generated during well testing (p51).
The new application adds that mobilisation of equipment may require 24-hour operations and lighting (p43/46).
Working and delivery hours
During decommissioning, the new planning statement changed wellsite operating (p54) and delivery hours (p57) to 7am-6pm, down from 7am-7pm. Operating hours for restoration were also reduced.
The new document includes a revised table on HGV hours, deliveries and durations. In the drilling phase, there appears to be a contingency of 24-hour deliveries.
The revised planning statement included additional explanation about how it thought the proposal complies with the following local and national policies
- EC5 Supporting the energy sector (p64/65)
- ENV2 Promoting a high quality landscape (p68)
- DM1 Impacts of mineral development (p76)
- DM2 Protecting residential amenity (p76)
- National Planning Policy Framework on land stability
- Planning Practice Guidance on minerals (p91)
- East Riding Local Plan Strategy Document (p99)
- East Riding of Yorkshire and Kingston-upon-Hull Joint Minerals Local Plan (p99/100
The application (p113) added that an online exhibition would be available before determination of the revised proposals. It also said Rathlin Energy had updated its website and met the community liaison group.
There are currently no details of the public consultation but we will update this post when they are published.
Proposals to extend the life of Rathlin’s West Newton-B site by three years have also been published. At the time of writing, the planning statement for this proposal was unavailable online. We’ll publish more details when it is.