Regulation

Views sought on Derbyshire’s future fracking policy

A blueprint for future oil and gas sites in Derbyshire leaves the way open to fracking, despite a moratorium on the process.

Marsh Lane, in north east Derbyshire, where Ineos had permission to explore for shale gas. Photo: DrillOrDrop

The new minerals local plan, which will shape developments in much of the county up to 2038, has not outlawed shale gas extraction and does not distinguish between policies for unconventional and conventional oil and gas operations.

A public consultation on the draft begins today and runs until 29 April 2022.

Uncertainty

Potential shale gas has been identified in north east Derbyshire.

Proposals by Ineos for an exploration site in the village of Marsh Lane were approved in 2018 after a public inquiry. But planning permission expired in 2021 without any work on the site.

The draft plan said the scale and commercial viability of oil and gas in Derbyshire were “very uncertain”. It said the move away from fossil fuels also put the future importance of oil and gas in doubt.

But it said detailed planning criteria were needed for exploration, appraisal and production:

“it is possible that the oil and gas industry will seek to examine and extract these resources, if commercial viability is proven, and the Plan therefore needs to include policies to enable such development.”

Criteria

A new proposed policy, SP17, applies to both conventional and unconventional oil and gas. It supports exploration and appraisal projects that:

  • Identify the target reservoir and search area
  • Include measures to avoid induced seismicity and demonstrate there will be no unacceptable adverse impacts on geology and former mining activities
  • Ensure well sites are:
    • in the least sensitive location for accessing the reservoir
    • operate for an agreed, temporary length of time
    • restored at the earliest practical opportunity

Production proposals must also meet these criteria. They will be supported, the plan said, if they have a full appraisal programme and a framework for “full and timely development” of the oil or gas field.

Production developments should also include the use of pipelines or rail, rather than road transport, unless this is impracticable. A financial restoration bond may be required for new techniques of oil and gas extraction.

Seismicity and separation

Hydraulic fracturing in former coalfield areas could worsen subsidence and land instability, the plan said. Under policy SP17, it said applicants would be required to establish the extent of geological faulting and identify past coal seams to reduce the likelihood of induced seismicity from fracking operations.

The plan recognised that low volume hydraulic fracturing with acid could be used to improve the flow of oil and gas in some conventional formations. But it has no specific policies on acid fracking or matrix acidising.

The new policies do not require specific setback distances between homes and well pads, as recently approved in the North Yorkshire minerals plan.

But a new general policy, DM1, which seeks to prevent unacceptable impacts, says separation distances may be applied between mineral sites and other land uses, where appropriate.

Again unlike the North Yorkshire plan, Derbyshire has not proposed a buffer zone around the edge of its national park. The plan said instead that developments in the setting of the Peak District would be expected to be “sensitively located and designed” to avoid or minimise adverse impacts.

The document does not refer to recent support by the government’s advisor, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), for controls on UK oil and gas production and a presumption against future exploration. Neither does it mention the CCC’s three tests on the compatibility of shale gas with UK carbon budgets.

Other policies

The draft also sets general policies for all mineral developments. These include:

DM1: Protecting local amenity, health and wellbeing and safety
Support for developments where no unacceptable impacts to local amenity, health, well-being and safety from issues such as noise, dust, vibration, emissions, ground contamination, visual intrusion, light pollution or transport

DM2: Assessing the benefits of minerals developments
Gives great weight would be given to the benefits of mineral extraction (except coal)

DM3 Transport
All proposals should seek to maximise sustainable modes of transport, including rail, barge, conveyor and pipeline.

DM4: Landscape
Proposals would be supported where it can be demonstrated that there will not be significant harm to the character, quality or sensitivity of the landscape, important features, views or qualities such as tranquillity – unless the benefits clearly outweigh the impacts

DM5 Biodiversity and geodiversity
Proposals should seek to protect and enhance nature conservation interest. This includes additional protection for internationally designated sites

DM6 Trees, woodlands and hedgerows
Developments should seek to protect trees, woodlands and hedgerows from loss or damage

DM7 Historic environment
Developments would be supported where it can be demonstrated that they would protect and enhance the significance to heritage assets

DM8 Water management and flood risk
Developments would be supported where it can be demonstrated they would not result in unacceptable impacts on surface and groundwater and flood flows/defences/storage capacity and local land drainage

Other general policies seek to conserve soil (DM9), protest green infrastructure (DM12) and local footpaths (DM13), maintain the openness of the Green Belt (DM11), ensure sites are restored (DM15).

Local meetings on the draft plan

Monday 28 March 2022, 2.30pm to 6.30pm – Buxton Library

Friday 1 April 2022, 2.30pm to 6.30pm – Bolsover Library

Tuesday 5 April 2022, 2.30pm to 6.30pm – Wirksworth Library

Wednesday 6 April, 2.30pm to 6.30pm – Foston And Scropton Village Hall

Tuesday 12 April, 2.30pm to 6.30pm – Shardlow Village Hall

Key documents

Section of the draft plan containing policies on oil and gas

Background paper on unconventional gas

Background paper on conventional oil and gas

8 replies »

  1. This is clearly reporting on an early draft of the Plan and one hopes that in their discussions the planners and public will pay some attention to the Minerals and Waste Joint Minerals Plan, (North Yorkshire, York, National Park), which had to be fought for every step of the way over several years as the industry strove to thwart the strengthening of the minimal protections to the citizen offered by national legislation.
    It is however worrying at this point that despite the recent IPCC report stage, there appears still to be a presumption in favour of fossil fuel extraction. It is also worrying, for example, that such protection as is offered by buffering (setback) zones appears to have been given scant attention.
    Looks like those opposed to the extinguishing of the planet are again going to have their work cut out. The Joint Plan’s provisions deserve a close study.

  2. Except, as reported by DoD, Government is being made aware, if they were not already, of the following:

    “There was also risk that policies to drive down emissions in the UK might increase emissions elsewhere.”

    So, no presumption, just common sense.

    Buy locally, check the standards that your product is produced to, cut down on transport emissions and the planet is the winner. Plus, national debt is reduced, lower interest payments to cover that and UK taxation is gained that can be used for all sorts of goodies-like the NHS and further development of renewables, or extra nuclear power stations to support more wind turbines.

    And the antis argument against that? Oh yes, the sites over the horizon would keep on producing the gas and oil that they are no longer exporting! It really is such an odd and weak argument. It is not reality as experienced by any exporting business-and if it was then surplus gas and oil would be produced which would reduce price! Some of these arguments have no thought behind them at all. Such obviously flawed arguments really should be placed in the “don’t go there” file as they simply defy common sense and create an image that is certainly not beneficial to the cause. .

    The only logic to such arguments is either an interest in production over the horizon or in transportation in between that and the UK. I suspect Spanish courgette growers, and/or lorry drivers, use the same approach. The discerning UK consumer who wishes to do their bit for the planet should buy locally and not complain too much if a poly tunnel is required in their vicinity to enable.

    • Glad you can at last see that the solution is not simple, but complex and that such risks have to be assessed before permissions are given and actions taken. One of the aspects of the Plan, one might think. As has been reiterated ad nauseam: of course we should buy locally where no inevitable colossal damage to the planet would ensue by doing so. That we cause damage by buying abroad is incontestable, a statement of the obvious. It’s a question of degree, so no refuge in simplicities, please. Our pollution to prevent greater pollution is regrettable, but perhaps justifiable. Your understanding of logic is deeply flawed, as are your belief that the market is the model and justification for every aspect of life, and your apparent belief that global heating is not proven to be anthropogenic, a scientific ‘fact’ accepted by almost all of us.

      • Nope, 1720.

        I have noted your comments previously to avoid the logic of buying locally, where there is absolutely no indication of colossal damage to the planet ensuing. Indeed the contrary. So, no refuge in changing your spots please. And no refuge in logic either. It really is not logical to argue against buying locally when there is no indication of colossal damage resulting, and then state “we should buy locally where no colossal damage to the planet would ensue”. That is certainly a contradiction, not logic. There would also be no logic to expect the contradiction would not be noticeable.

        A scientific “fact” accepted by almost all of us. Maybe-but who are us? Us is a grouping. It may be large, it may be small, it may be representative, it may not be. Besides, I would be surprised if there were many of “us” silly enough to assume what someone’s beliefs were.

        So, if you want to hang your hat on degree now, then you have just been cornered by transport emissions. Which takes us back to “transfer”. All previously set out logically, and the logic escaped some. But not me.

  3. I do not think that anything determined in the Derbyshire Mineral Plan will make a blind bit of difference to global CO2 production. Given the frack results from Preston Road, any HPHV fracking is dead, and there is not much else left by past activities to remove. The protection Derbyshire has is that the bulk of its hydrocarbons have been extracted.

    https://www.mining-technology.com/features/feature-the-10-biggest-coal-mines-in-the-world/

    That one coal mine (opencast) in the US produced the same amount of coal in 2017 as the while of the UK in 1983 is a sobering thought (101 Million Tonnes). The thermal coal industry is now enjoying record prices (and windfall profits for those companies who bought coal mines on the cheap due to environmental lobbying), record orders for mining machinery and a large increase in planning applications for new mines.

    I think the one coal mine in the US can produce the same amount of coal as all the Derbyshire mines took 19 years to mine in the year of peak production (1913).

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