The congested well pad at Kirby Misperton
Fears of further fracking schemes in the south of Yorkshire are voiced in an update on the controversial energy plans for the county, drafted by East Yorkshire member and fracking campaigner Terry Walls.
In a comprehensive assessment of developments in Yorkshire and across the border in Lancashire, Terry highlights moves that allow the Government to “ride roughshod’ over residents who oppose exploration in their areas.
Terry and his wife Gill were thrust into the fracking row after retiring to Yorkshire from Norwich in 2002.
“We love the Yorkshire countryside and coast. What we did not expect was that the beauty and tranquillity would soon be in danger from industrialisation from the proposed activities of fracking companies. A leaflet was dropped through our door in Autumn 2015 and, at about the same time, we saw a quote on the BBC website from Lord Howell of Guildford, who said that fracking should be carried out in the North East where there were large desolate areas.
Since then we have spent a lot of time researching the pros and cons of shale gas extraction by means of fracking and are convinced the dangers are real.
“Our research made great use of the internet and included an interesting visit with Party Leader Stewart Arnold and other Yorkshire Party members to the Kirby Misperton Protection Camp. We have also spent time leafleting in Driffield and the surrounding villages about fracking information meetings, which we attended whenever we were able. I was also pleased to be asked to write the Yorkshire Party policy statement on fracking,” Terry explained.
Here is his report, the latest in a series by Yorkshire Party members on key issues about which they feel strongly.
“Since the Yorkshire Party policy statement on fracking was first drafted some two years ago there have been several developments at sites in and close to Yorkshire as well as a lot of activity from those involved with or against fracking. This updates site developments and describes the other activities.
“The Ryedale area of Yorkshire has seen the most activity in the past year with exploratory drilling taking place at Kirby Misperton, near Pickering. This was reported as a potentially viable site by the licensee Third Energy, after the drilling of a second well referred to as Kirby Misperton Deep (KM8) was drilled to about 8000 feet and targeted the Bowland shale that runs under the whole of the north of England. There has been no ongoing activity in recent months until Third Energy recently opened up the well for cleaning: creating unpleasant smells in the locality for three weeks. It is anticipated that, subject to planning permission, more shale gas exploratory wells, perhaps as many as four, will be drilled.
“Across the border in Lancashire, the fracking company Cuadrilla is very active at their Preston New Road site, a few miles from Blackpool. Two side tracks have been drilled from the main well and despite continuing challenges and much protest activities it is anticipated that fracking will start in September. Apart from a so-called mini-frack in Holderness this will be the first frack in the country since late May 2011, when the first UK exploration for shale gas using high-volume hydraulic fracturing was suspended at Preese Hall, also near Blackpool, after the process triggered two minor earthquakes.The larger of the earthquakes caused minor deformation of the wellbore and was strong enough to be felt.
“More activity is expected around the Yorkshire border south of Sheffield. The oil, gas and plastics multinational company Ineos has a considerable number of PEDL’s (UK Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences) that could result in fracking at many sites. These include Bramleymoor Lane, near Marsh Lane, seven miles south-south-east of Sheffield; Harthill, 10 miles south-east of Sheffield, and Woodsetts, which is 13 miles to the east of Sheffield. The Marsh Lane site is preparing for exploratory drilling, Harthill has not seen any activity yet, and it is reported that site construction is planned to start at Woodsetts. Another company, IGas Energy, has a PEDL for a site at Tinker Lane, 20 miles east of Sheffield, near Blyth. IGas had moved equipment on to the site prior to getting planning permission but this has now been granted and site preparation is under way.
“Other activities that are of important to note are:-
- The Government is planning to make non-hydraulic exploratory drilling for shale gas “Permitted Development”. This means a 1.5 hectare exploratory well pad would be treated the same way by the planning system as a conservatory or garden shed. Perhaps even more alarming is that the Government wants to make industrial fracking a “Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project”, which means that the decisions whether or not full-scale fracking production is allowed in our countryside will be made by the Secretary of State and the Government-appointed Planning Inspectorate – not your local planning authority. Many residents in areas affected by these proposed changes are unhappy with them, seeing them as the Government riding roughshod over local democracy, so much so that Malton Town Mayor, Paul Andrews, is taking legal action against the Government over these plans. He is applying for a judicial review over the ministerial statement issued by the Business Secretary Greg Clark earlier this year.
- The Government has claimed that fracking is safe, with “gold plated” regulations to ensure that nothing will go wrong. Several breaches of these regulations have already occurred at Preston New Road, which the Environment Agency is aware of, but no action has been taken against Cuadrilla.
- There are many other concerns about fracking activities, some of them are: health issues, which have been documented in the USA; lack of evacuation plans; resultant damage to roads due to the considerable growth in HGV movements to and from the drilling sites, with this congestion is of concern to farming and the holiday industry. As well pads could be built within 250 metres of properties, including dwellings and schools, worries exist as to the effects of drilling side tracks that could be beneath these properties.
- House insurance may prove to be difficult to obtain for properties close to fracking sites. Policies may well include restrictions on what can be claimed if fracking activities appear to cause damage. Increases in premiums will also result.
- Questions have been raised over the financial viability of some of the fracking companies. A particular concern is that the requirement to restore a site to its former state is expensive and who would pay if a drilling company were declared insolvent.
- Fracking companies faced with large-scale protests, which cause disruption to fracking activities, often by hindering the movement of materials to and from fracking sites, have applied for injunctions to stop peaceful protesting. These are being vigorously opposed by protest groups.
- British fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood and her son Joe Corre staged an anti-fracking protest with campaigners outside Downing Street. The campaigner and designer led a demonstration against fracking by INEOS on World Environment Day.
- Sir Jim Ratcliffe, billionaire fracking and chemicals entrepreneur and head of Ineos, has announced that he is leaving the UK to live in Monaco. As well as his interests in fracking, Ratcliffe owns or has a majority interest in the Forties pipeline in the North Sea, Grangemouth refinery, and a gas pipeline from Teesside to Salt End near Hull. Interestingly, Ratcliffe was educated in East Yorkshire, at Beverley Grammar School.
- A major by-product of shale gas and oil is expected to be used in the manufacture of plastics.
- The nuclear industry has announced that it is considering using disused drill shafts for the dumping of radioactive waste, as leakages at Sellafield need to be addressed urgently. This has raised concern about potential effects on water quality, especially areas where the water sources are aquifers that are drilled through during the fracking process
- Waste products from fracking are also causing concern in many quarters, especially the safe disposal of large quantities of contaminated water.
- A Government survey of public opinion has in the past asked about respondents opinions on fracking. It has now changed the question to ask if people are aware of fracking. A lot of the population will have heard of fracking but the chance to give their opinion has now been lost.
“I hope that this brief update will be of interest to readers. Fracking is a highly emotive subject so I recommend you research the subject to form your own opinions,” said Terry.