Shale gas drill probe in Bassetlaw given go-ahead

Members of Frack Free groups from Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Newark and East Leake, protested outside County Hall in Nottingham on Tuesday.
Members of Frack Free groups from Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Newark and East Leake, protested outside County Hall in Nottingham on Tuesday.
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A bid to drill a well to search for shale gas in Bassetlaw, ahead of fracking, has been approved by Nottinghamshire county councillors.

The IGas application to drill a 3,300 metre deep well, with associated works, on land off the A634 between Barnby Moor and Blyth, was heard at a Nottinghamshire County Council planning meeting on Tuesday.

Councillors voted by six to five in favour.

Planning officer Oliver Meek said 797 comments had been received, and all but four were objections, while over 150 objections had been received since the officers wrote their report.

A letter from John Mann MP was read out, in which he said fracking should only go ahead with the full consent of local people.

Peter Thompson, of Blyth Parish Council, said: “The community is well and truly against this.

“People queued to sign the petition against this in Retford market place. And 70 per cent of the people we spoke to in a door-to-door survey are opposed.”

He noted that the applicant’s share price had plummeted from £1.40 six months ago to 4.65p this morning, and said there were fears about its future viability.

He said the primary school in Blyth ran a breakfast club and an after school club, and people were concerned about traffic movement times.

Christie Willis, of Torworth Parish Council, said: “Our primary concern is subsidence. The area is riddled with underground works from the Harworth Colliery.

“Ranskill and Blyth have already experienced earthquakes, which have seen people running from their houses.

“This is a coalfield area with a documented history of sinkholes. The last thing we need to do is add drilling into the mix.”

She said she was concerned about the lack of 3D seismic surveys of Tinker Lane and was “perplexed” about why IGas refuses to conduct one.

She said she was worried about the cumulative impact of increased traffic on the roads, with a number of new housing developments in the pipeline.

Cllr Sue Saddington said IGas should have conducted the surveys to gain the residents’ confidence.

She said: “We have IGas on one side and the residents on the other. There is an impasse.”

Rachel Kitchin, of Tinker Lane Community Group, grew on Mantel Farm, near to Tinker Lane, and her family has farmed there for over 80 years. She collected nearly 3,000 names on a petition against the drill.

She said she has been concerned about the road safety risk of increased traffic on her daughter and other local children, as well as on cyclists.

She said there was an eight inch clearance between the HGVs and the curb and asked: “Would you like your child to cross here to go to the after school or breakfast clubs?”

She said she was concerned about the release of lead and radioactive substances.

Dust from the HGVs could contaminate irrigation water and also spoil the crops, she warned and said that the water table could be affected by drilling, resulting in poorer crop yields. Mr Meek said road safety had not been flagged as a concern. Diesel emissions from traffic had been analysed by the applicants and were not deemed to be “significant.”

Ken Cronin, of UK Onshore Oil and Gas, a trade association which represents the energy industry, said the project could create 64,000 jobs potentially.

Cllr Jason Zadrozny said: “I recall Cuadrilla saying something similar in Lancashire, and now they have full fracking, and 11 jobs were created.”

Mr Cronin said: “There are quite a few jobs on the site, but the jobs are created in the supply chain, supplying sand and making equipment.”

“How many people would be required to attend this drill?” asked cllr Wilkinson.

Mr Cronin said between 20 and 50. He said there was no impact on the aquifer and the amount used in the process was “tiny”.

Mr Meek said 20 to 25 staff members would be on site during drilling, and more jobs would be created in the supply chain.

IGas chief operating officer John Blaymires said: “This area of England is no stranger to oil and gas production” and the industry had worked in the area for 30 years.

He said all oil and gas wells are designed to “rigorous standards” which protected the aquifer; the site was not within the zone of underground workings and the nearest one was 920m away.

He said IGas had significant cash reserves of $31m and finances were “robust.”

He admitted shareholders were “concerned”, but said more shares were about to be issued and this had diluted the price.

Mr Blaymires was asked why 3D seismic surveys had not been carried out to allay local anxieties, and said: “If we were looking to develop a field we would have gone ahead and shot 3D surveys.

“For the purposes of an exploratory well - an eight and a half inch hole - we don’t need a very detailed picture.”

He said: “There are concerns and there always will be then we go into new communities. I would be absolutely amazed if we had 100 per cent approval.

“There’s an element of emotion while we tend to be fact-based. We have been operating since WWII and people don’t know we’re there.”

He said tension and anxiety had built up over the last year and added: “If it was approved we would hope to start towards the end of the year.”

Cllr Zadrozny said the firm had demonstrated a “cavalier” approach when it placed cabins on the site without planning permission.

The councillors expressed their concerns about the validity of geological data.

Mr Meek said the project would be operated by Dart Energy, an IGas subsidiary, in four phases: construction, then four months of drilling, followed by a phase of up to two years while findings were analysed, and finally the clearance and restoration of the site.

Permission to explore was sought for three years, and drilling of the well would take four months, 24 hours a day, while at other times, works would run from 7am and 7pm, Monday to Friday, and 7am and 1pm on Saturdays, with no working on Sundays or Bank holidays.

As many as 56 vehicle movements would have been permitted at the site every day, but HGVs would be restricted to the A634, the B6045 and High Street/Spital Road to gain access to the A1.

Prior to the shale gas well site works, three 50m boreholes would be drilled to monitor groundwater in the area, but no permission for hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, was sought.

The county council consulted more than 40 organisations about the proposals and the application was subjected to an eight week consultation.

More than 2,000 wells have been drilled onshore in the UK over the last 50 years.

Safety checks to monitor seismic risks, the well’s construction, chemical content, flaring or venting of gas, the impact on noise, landscape and water as well as the disposal of water after fracking, are made at each of the three stages of development: exploration, appraisal and extraction.