Does the thought of flames coming from a fracking site and acid being poured into the ground give you cause for alarm? Then you might want to read on..
A local resident from Chester, concerned about IGas intentions for their neighbourhood recently sent off a freedom of Information request asking about communications during the last half of 2016 between fracking companies and Cheshire West & Chester council. It had been a relatively quiet year with seemingly little interest from the fracking industry towards Cheshire. But knowing that Igas has a 30 year lease on land at Duttons Lane in Upton, and open planning permission at Ellesmere Port and Ince, this was too much to hope for.
Summarising the activity from the last 6 months of 2016 it appears that
- an undisclosed Petrochemical Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL) holder within CW&C (this must be IGas) has employed a consultancy firm Axis (http://www.axisped.co.uk/) with a Chester office at Well House Barns, Bretton, Chester CH4 0DH, to liaise between the council and the fracking company
- CW&C have met once with the director of this firm, and have since turned down any further meetings.
- It appears that the fracking company (from the meeting in August) was considering Ellesmere Port, Ince Marsh , Thornton (ESIOS project), Mickle Trafford and Bridge Trafford.
- The initial idea from the fracking company was to amend the already granted planning application for Portside One, Ellesmere Port to enable them to carry out flow testing on the shale bed there. This was refused by CW&C and the consultants were then told that a new planning application would have to be submitted.
The details of the proposed development summary for Ellesmere Port are therefore indicative of what we can expect to see in future planning applications in our area. Bearing in mind that these details were intended to alter a previously granted planning application for coalbed methane, these details can be taken to be the least that the fracking company wanted to do -when submitting a new full planning application, their requests are expected to be for much more, to cover all that they want to do.
So, what can we expect?
(Remember this is the least they wanted to do)
- A workover rig of up to 30m to lower tools into the Petre Chert layer of the bowland shale found in the well that was drilled in 2014
- 7 days mobilisation, 30 days testing, 7 days de-mobilisation
- 730 traffic movements during the test
- The original consent allowed for a flare of height 5m and a vent of height 9m. The proposed test would not have utilised a vent and the flare would have been 12.2m tall”
- the gas bearing rock (Pentre Chert) will be accessed by perforating the steel tubing (casing) in the well adjacent to that layer and the gas is expected to flow freely due to differences in pressure with the rock and the well
- In the event that the gas does not flow, and/or to enhance the flow, an acid solution will be circulated down the wellbore and into the rock formation via the previously made perforations
- There is no fracturing involved at this stage (hydraulic, acid, or otherwise)
We are mindful that these changes were seen as minor changes to the existing planning application, which was relevant to the coal layers under the ground, this is now targeting the Pentre Chert, which is much deeper and the base of the bowland shale.
This is the flow test stage, not production stage. So this activity, although a cause for more concern than the previous exploratory stage where a sample of the shale was taken away, will just be the initial starting phase for incoming planning applications.
The company was ready to press ahead with these changes in September 2016, so they are not idly sitting back. They were told “No” by the council and to submit new planning applications, it is expected that they they are currently working on them.
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