People have until the end of this week to respond to proposals to extend the life of the West Newton-B oil and gas site in East Yorkshire.
The operator, Rathlin Energy, is seeking another three years for the site near Burton Constable in Holderness.
The company first received planning permission in June 2015 to build the pad and drill and test two exploration wells.
That consent is due to expire in about 10 weeks.
A condition of the original permission said work must start within five years of the decision. Another condition limited the duration of work on the site. Rathlin asked for three years but East Riding of Yorkshire Council granted two.
Site work started at West Newton-B in April 2020 and drilling began on the first well, B1, on 4 October 2020. But, according to planning officers, the well missed one of its targets. A sidetrack to the well, B1z, was spudded on 23 November 2020.
Two months later, partners in the West Newton-B project said the second well would be drilled from July-December 2021.
This didn’t happen and in August 2021, partners reported formation damage to the B-1z sidetrack.
Despite this, Rathlin described the results from B-1z as “very encouraging”.
Rathlin blamed its failure to drill and test the two consented wells at West Newton-B on what it called “unforeseen delays” caused by environmental permitting. The company said these delays were outside its control.
The company also said drilling had taken longer than expected because the B1z sidetrack had been needed.
After drilling, there was a delay of five months caused partly by analysis of drilling results, Rathlin said.
Testing had taken 13 months but could not begin until the environmental permit application for that operation had been approved.
Rathlin said the extra three years sought in the new application would:
“allow for the drilling and testing of the second well as provided for in the consented development and the ability, where required which is highly likely due to the nature of the exploration phase, to vary environmental permits, which have an approximate determination timescale of up to 12 months.”
Another variation to the environmental permit would probably be needed before drilling the second well could begin, the company said:
“The process of applying for environmental permits has evolved and become more stringent and descriptive since the original planning application was approved in 2015.
“In order to ensure that there is a sufficient window of time in which all the requisite permits can be obtained, it is considered appropriate to seek a three-year planning implementation period.”
“Contribute to UK energy needs”
The new application indicated that the second well would be drilled directionally, away from the site, into the Kirkham Abbey formation.
The planning statement, which accompanies the application, said consent was sought for exploration and appraisal only, not production. However, the document said:
“If commercial quantities can be produced, the development will contribute to meeting the UK’s energy needs.”
The time extension would provide direct employment on the site, the statement said, and at local service providers, in environmental monitoring and at hotels and restaurants. No numbers were estimated.
The statement also said a 50m drilling rig would be on the site for six-ten weeks per well. There would be an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, it conceded, but these were described as “negligible in the national context”.
If approved, the size of the site would remain at 2.31ha. But initial plans for West Newton B suggested Rathlin wanted to drill a further six wells at the site, taking the total to eight. Well treatment options could include acid wash, matrix acidisation and low volume hydraulic fracturing, the early plans suggested.
These early proposals were discussed by Rathlin Energy with East Riding of Yorkshire Council in 2020 and summarised by the council in a document dated 6 October 2020. The council and company have refused FOI requests to publish Rathlin’s letter requesting pre-planning advice. The additional wells are not referred to in the latest planning application.
- Rathlin Energy is also seeking permission for 20 years of oil and gas production and a further four wells at its nearby West Newton-A site. A previous application for West Newton-A was refused in September 2021. DrillOrDrop will follow the proposals for both West Newton sites through the planning system and will report on reactions to them.