Ellesmere Port inquiry January-March 2019


Ellesmere Port tanks FFEP

IGas site at Ellesmere Port. Photo: Frack Free Ellesmere and Upton

This page has links (in red) to detailed reports on the inquiry into IGas’s application to test the gas in its well at Ellesmere Port.

The company was refused planning permission in January 2017. Cheshire West and Chester Council said the application failed to address climate change or support renewable energy (DrillOrDrop report).

Hearing details

Dates: 15-18 January,  22-24 January, 26-28 February, 5-6 March 2019

Location: Assembly Room, Chester Town Hall, Northgate Street, Chester CH1 2HJ

Parties: IGas (appellant), Cheshire West and Chester Council (defendant), Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton (Rule 6 party)

Rally: Campaigners against IGas plans are due to gather outside Chester Town Hall from 9am on the opening day of the inquiry (15 January 2019)

Appeal reference: APP/A0665/W/18/3207952

Site details

Ellesmere Port Wellsite, Portside One, Portside North, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire CH65 2HQ


Inspector: Brian Cook

IGas barrister: Giles Cannock

Cheshire West and Chester Council barrister: Robert Griffiths

Frack Free Ellesmere Port & Upton barrister: Estelle Dehon

IGas expert witnesses: David Adams, plannning; Jonathan Foster, operations; Katrina Hawkins, air quality; Kevin Honour, ecology; Simon Stephenson, Noise

Cheshire West and Chester Council expert witnesses: Dr Paul Balcombe, climate change; Dr John Broderick, climate change; ; Connor Vallelly, planning

Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton expert witnesses: Robin Grayson, geologist; Emeritus Professor David Smythe, geologist; Professor Kevin Anderson, climate change; Colin Watson, site location; Professor Andrew Watterson, air quality; Dr Anna Szolucha, social health; Dr Patrick Saunders, public health; David Plunkett, economic sustainability; Jackie Copley, planning

Inquiry posts

Day 1: 15 January 2019

Opening statements and evidence from the council witness on climate change, Dr Paul Balcombe

Key points

  • Inquiry inspector accused of pre-determining climate evidence
  • Discussion on whether inspector should recuse himself because of connections with IGas consultant
  • “Gas is a fossil fuel. It is a climate generator. Your fight here is crucial” – Nathalie Bennett, Green Party
  • Flaring dismissed as best available technique for dealing with waste gas – council witness
  • IGas should have considered collecting waste gas, rather than flaring – council expert
  • Decision-makers should take account of the social cost of emissions from the onshore oil and gas industry – council
  • Government support for shale gas does not mean that exploration must be permitted in the wrong location – Frack Free Ellesmere Port & Upton
  • Emissions left after mitigation are the inevitable impacts of exploration – IGas

Day 2: 16 January 2019

Evidence from council witnesses: Conor Vallelly (planning), Dr John Broderick and Dr Paul Balcombe (climate change)

Key points

  • Residents don’t trust IGas, which leads to stress and anxiety – local councillor
  • Gas production is a deliberate act of moving carbon from below the ground to above the ground where it has a damaging effect on the climate – council expert
  • Hydrocarbon production should not be considered climate change mitigation – council expert
  • Shale gas has no benefit in displacing coal and its role as a bridge fuel depends on the timescale – council expert
  • The IGas scheme does not comply with the Paris Agreement on climate change – council expert
  • UK carbon budgets are too high for the commitments made in the Paris Agreement and our policy is not compatible with achieving the results” – council expert
  • “We should be planning for an almost decarbonised energy system within the next two decades” – council expert
  • “The impact of the IGas scheme in climate change terms is significant, cannot be underestimated and in the planning balance the councillors were justified in refusing the application” – council planning witness
  • “shale gas exploration should not be an exercise which is undertaken at any environmental cost” – council planning witness
  • In the current climate, I would give very significant weight to the views of local people” – council planning witness

Day 3: 17 January 2019

Evidence from the council’s planning witness, Paul Vallelly, and the first witness for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton, Professor Andrew Watterson, on air quality

Key points

  • The Ellesmere Port flow test was an opportunity for IGas to “break the mould” on carbon emissions – Cheshire planning witness
  • Inquiry could continue for a week in late February
  • IGas says the council’s planning witness accepts that the Ellesmere Port well was drilled “responsibly”
  • IGas’s barrister describes the application as non-fracking shale gas exploration – the company has previously said the rock formation is the Pentre Chert, not shale
  • IGas says the inquiry should not consider mitigation of emissions from the Ellesmere Port well test
  • IGas barrister says the refusal of planning permission for Ellesmere Port amounts to  “unreasonable behaviour”
  • Ellesmere Port inquiry reveals tension between government policies on shale gas extraction and limiting climate change – council planning witness
  • Greenhouse gas emissions mitigation is a matter for the inquiry – council planning witness
  • Environment Agency assessment looked only at environmental impacts on homes 700m from the IGas Ellesmere Port site but there are new homes 320m away, inquiry told
  • The IGas assessment does not consider vulnerability of population to air quality impacts – health expert for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton
  • IGas conclusions on air quality are “highly hypothetical and speculative” –health expert for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton
  • Workers near Ellesmere Port well site are “potentially very vulnerable” – health expert for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton

Day 4: 18 January 2019

Evidence from MPs, councillors, campaigners and members of the public.

Key points

  • Three local MPs oppose the scheme
    • Local democracy must be upheld – Chris Matheson MP for Chester
    • I don’t want a new housing estate to be half-built because people don’t want to live there – Justin Madders MP
    • IGas plans are step to the past that could do harm and fail to address environmental concerns – Mike Amesbury MP
  • Police and Crime Commissioner has concerns about whether Cheshire could resource policing of protests at the site
  • It is entirely illogical to explore for new sources of fossil fuels when we must take action to limit temperature rise – Friends of the Earth
  • “We cannot take any further risks with children’s health in Ellesmere Port – former teacher
  • “IGas scheme will rob Ellesmere Port communities of opportunities available to them” – local resident and councillor
  • IGas scheme is unacceptable risk that would restrict economic development of Ellesmere Port – local councillor
  • Ellesmere Port has always been considered as a convenient dumping ground for the rest of Cheshire and it is time for this to stop – local councillor
  • The IGas scheme will worsen health problems in Ellesmere Port – local opponent
  • “We cannot take any further risks with children’s health in Ellesmere Port” – local teacher
  • Why would IGas carry out testing if they did not intend to move onto production?  – resident
  • Approving the application would set a precedent for gas production in built-up areas in the UK – resident
  • IGas consultation and community engagement does not meet industry guidelines or the Aarhus convention – local campaigner
  • Approving the IGas scheme would reward the few at the cost of the many- local resident
  • Site location shows “fantastic lack of concern for the welfare of the communities affected” – resident
  • There were no speakers in favour of the application

Day 5: 22 January 2019

Frack Free Ellesmere and Upton evidence on geology and climate

Key points: Professor Kevin Anderson, climate change

  • “IGas’s failure to assess its own GHG impact is negligent”
  • “Hydrocarbon developments are difficult to reconcile with UK climate change commitments” 
  • Greenhouse gas emissions from IGas well test are the equivalent of all the gas use of 8,000 homes for a year or driving round the world in a typical saloon 3,500 times.
  • “Only if you were a climate sceptic would you invest in a new fossil fuel industry today”
  • Shale gas development cannot meet the Committee on Climate Change’s three tests to become compatible with climate obligations
  • Shale gas does not provide medium to long term energy security

Key points: Professor David Smythe, geology

  • IGas accused of presenting geological data, possibly from Ince Marshes, for Ellesmere Port well site
  • Target formation is likely to be unconventional geology 
  • Geology around the well site is cut by dozens of faults
  • IGas will use matrix acidisation based on the volume and concentration of acid in requires
  • “Little confidence” that IGas plans will not lead to contamination of the aquifer or escape of gas

Key points: Robin Grayson, geology

  • The target formation – called the Pentre Chert by IGas – is really the Bowland shale
  • There are risks in the testing plans from hydrogen sulphide and selenium
  • Testing should not take place unless IGas can first demonstrate that these risks will not materialise
  • There should be set back distance of 1,500m for shale gas wells in northern England

Day 6: 23 January 2019

181210 Ellesmere Port map

Map compiled by Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton showing the location of the IGas site and local amenities

Frack Free Ellesmere and Upton evidence on site location, social and economic impacts, public health and planning

Key points from Colin Watson on site location

  • Gas site does not offer multiple safe escape routes for either IGas employees, or for the businesses at the end of the cul-de-sac
  • IGas told the regulators it was drilling beyond the coal measures but told the community exploration was for coalbed methane 
  • The Environment Agency considered homes 700+m from the site but the nearest homes are 320m away

Key points from Dr Anna Szolucha on social impact

  • There is a lack of trust and confidence in IGas from the local community 
  • Residents’ concerns are not irrational fears – as IGas claims
  •  “There is a consensus in the research that the current system and regulations are inaccurate and weighted heavily in favour of shale gas development”

Key points from David Plunkett on economic impact

  • If you have a unconventional gas development in a town that cares about changing its reputation that is going to be problematic 
  • With unconventional gas extraction, the economic future of Ellesmere Port is in jeopardy – FFEPU witness

Key points from Dr Patrick Saunders on public health

  • Science is absolutely clear, any increased exposure to those chemicals [for which there is no safe exposure limit] will have an impact at a population level – FFEPU witness

Day 7: 24 January 2019

Evidence from Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton  on planning witness and IGas on air quality

Key points

  • IGas presents evidence that Peel Holdings has dropped plans to redevelop the port area for mixed use
  • Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton planning witnesses says the IGas plans will cause social harm.
  • IGas has disregarded noise and air quality impacts of Ellesmere Port well, says campaign group’s witness.
  • Council must understand the level of its greenhouse gas emissions, says planning witness
  • Inspector cannot assume that the Environment Agency had correct information about the IGas well test plans – planning witness
  • Questions raised over whether planning committee considered the effect on emergencies that the IGas wellsite was on a cul-de-sac
  • Shale gas development on the IGas site would threatened inward investment in Ellesmere – planning witness
  • Greenhouse gas emissions were not calculated because they would be too low – air quality witness
  • The IGas scheme would not worsen air quality – company witness

Day 8: 26 February 2019

Evidence from IGas operations witness, Jonathan Foster

Key points

  • IGas is not planning to frack or use matrix acidisation at Ellesmere Port
  • Greenhouse gas emissions are inevitable during flow testing and should not be assumed to be low, IGas witness tells inquiry
  • It is not possible to explore for onshore oil and gas with net zero emissions, IGas tells inquiry
  • IGas witness defines the Ellesmere Port site as a “wildcat well” with little evidence of production potential
  • Connecting the well to the national gas grid during the extended well test is not feasible or safe, IGas witness tells inquiry
  • The Ellesmere Port will not be used for fracking, IGas witness tells inquiry
  • IGas witness concedes the company has no climate change witness at the inquiry

 Day 9: 27 February 2019

Evidence from IGas planning witness, David Adams

Key points

  • IGas says there is no need to provide a climate change witness to the inquiry because it does not dispute that exploration of hydrocarbons will give rise to greenhouse gas emissions.
  • IGas says it complies with government policy on climate change because it is doing everything it can to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from the Ellesmere Port site
  • National policy as more important than the scientific evidence on climate change put before the inquiry, says IGas witness
  • Confusion about whether IGas wants to do an acid wash, an acid squeeze or an acid wash with pressure

Day 10: 28 February 2019

190228 dod 2

Closing arguments from Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton

Key points

  • Greenhouse gas emissions from the site will impact on the UK’s ability to meet the radical reductions needed to limit warming to 1.5C
  • The site does not sit with the council’s regeneration vision for Ellesmere Port
  • The Environment Agency carried some of its assessment of the IGas scheme based on incorrect information
  • The location of the site is unsuitable
  • The IGas scheme does not comply with the council’s development plan
  • By its “high-handed approach” IGas has exacerbated the community’s lack of trust”
  • There are widespread, genuinely held fears on the part of the local community that the development represents a risk to their health and to their safety.
  • it cannot be assumed that there is no risk of seismicity and no risk to groundwater
  • Unconventional gas extraction does create poor air quality
  • It is incorrect to say that decision-makers must assume that other pollution control regimes will operate effectively

News updates Day 11: 5 March 2019

Final submissions by Robert Griffiths QC, barrister of Cheshire West and Chester Council.

Key points

  • The planning system should recognise the threat of climate change by refusing to grant permission for the IGas flow test
  • Granting an environmental permit does not find that a scheme is sustainable development or does not have an adverse impact on climate change
  • Key issue is whether flaring would have a significantly adverse effect on climate change, regardless of whether it is a best available technique
  • The environmental permit was granted on a false premise and mitigation was based on an underestimate of greenhouse gas emissions
  • This is a major deficiency in the IGas case
  • IGas ignored that protection of the environment from climate change is in the national interest
  • The inquiry has to grapple with contradictions between the warmings of environmental scientists and the actions of politicians
  • The importance on the Paris Agreement on climate change cannot be underestimated
  • Public concerns are material considerations
  • The government does not support shale gas development unless there is robust regulation and decarbonisation
  • The planning system should apply the precautionary principle and ensure that it does not contribute to the demise of the planet.

News updates Day 12: 6 March 2019

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Giles Cannock,, barrister for IGas, at the Ellesmere Port inquiry. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Final submissions by Giles Cannock, barrister for IGas

Key points

  • Council reason for refusal lacks merit
  • Council “has been making up their case as they have been going along”
  • Opposition to a proposal is not a material consideration
  • The flow test proposal complies with local policies ENV7 and STRAT1
  • Flaring of flow test gas is best available technique
  • “Nothing turns on miscalculation of emissions from Ellesmere Port”
  • Uncertainty about UK shale gas is to be addressed by exploration and monitoring
  • The government takes account of carbon emissions
  • Onshore oil and gas development support the transition to a low carbon economy
  • The impact of greenhouse gas emissions is outweighed by the need for gas
  • Very limited weight should be attached to claims of fear and anxiety of the development
  • The IGas scheme does not conflict with regeneration plans


UK firsts for public inquiry into IGas test plans at Ellesmere Port opening today (5/1/2019)

Key issues

Campaigners to argue that IGas Ellesmere Port gas test is a risk to public health (8/1/2019)

IGas Ellesmere Port well test is “wrong place at the wrong time”, says campaign group (2/1/2019)

IGas plans for Ellesmere Port “don’t conform to UK climate commitments” – inquiry expert (17/12/2018)

IGas exploration plans are “in the heart of a community”, Ellesmere Port campaigners warn (10/12/2018)