Ineos wins Test Drill Appeal in England
Ineos Shale has won its appeal against a decision by the local council in the borough of Rotherham, England, which had denied the company planning permission for exploratory drilling at Common Lane, Harthill.
The Yorkshire town’s council had cited concerns about the impact of drilling activity on road traffic as well as ecological concerns as grounds for rejecting the application by the UK-based shale gas arm of the Swiss-headquartered chemical producer.
In overriding the rejection, Stephen Roscoe, a national planning inspector, authorized drilling equipment to be installed for up to five years. At the same time, he ordered the council to develop a traffic management plan for the site.
Rotherham had argued that the proposed site could only be approached by country lanes and that increased traffic would be difficult to handle. Roscoe said, however, he did not believe the proposal would have an adverse effect on road use. Ineos’ plans “do not represent inappropriate development and would not be harmful to the green belt,” he added.
Ineos plans to dig a well 1.7 mile (2.8 km) deep to extract rock samples and assess prospects for exploitation of unconventional gas. The company said it chose the site because of “favorable seismic data” (meaning the location is not prone to earthquakes). It is now planning a second attempt to win permission for a similar development in Woodsetts, a village within the Rotherham boundaries.
Labour MP Kevin Barron said he would continue to fight the planning inspectorate’s decision.
In May, the UK government said it wanted to fast-track private companies’ planning applications for shale gas permits. However, a new report authored by Peter Styles, a seismologist and former adviser to British prime ministers, said extracting gas from former coal mining areas “dramatically enhances” the risk of seismic activity.
Rather than accelerate approvals, Styles said more rigorous checks are needed to identify potential dangers in coalfields.
He has called for buffer zones between fracking sites and old mines or significant natural fractures, as well as the requirement that businesses make use of detailed data before proceeding.
According to the British newspaper The Independent, Styles has also questioned the industry’s technical capability to identify the faults or fractures that are likely to cause earthquakes. “To date,” he said, “it does not appear that any proper industry or government due diligence has taken place with regards to faultlines mapped.”
Elsewhere, the news that Queen Elizabeth has bestowed knighthood on Ineos’ founder and chairman, Jim Ratcliffe, one of the most prominent promoters of shale gas exploitation, did not have a positive resonance with opponents of the technology.
“Ratcliffe is a man who has a desire to frack the entire central belt of Scotland with no regard to the environmental consequences,” said Neil Findlay, member of the Scottish Parliament for the Labour Party.