Monday, August 12, 2013

Oil, gas and fracking Lincolnshire, part 3

I was looking for information about planning applications for oil and gas exploration in Lincolnshire and asked a Lincolnshire County Councillor, Mrs Sarah Dodds, for some advice.  She said she would enquire for me.
She sent this message to Tony McArdle, Lincolnshire’s Chief Executive:
Hi Tony
I have had a number of residents contact me in the last week or so who are concerned about potential Fracking in the Lincolnshire area. I understand that there are a number of potential sites being considered around the county. Would it be possible for all members to have a briefing paper quite quickly about where those locations are, what stage of the process we are at, and what we can expect for the future? I do think it is important that members have the information quickly so that we can be in touch with our communities as efficiently as possible.
Many thanks, Sarah
He replied thus:
Sarah,
I am aware that there are some companies that have made public statements identifying Lincolnshire as an area where opportunities to extract shale gas could arise. There has certainly been a lot of site-specific interest in North Lincolnshire. At the present time, and whilst we do have a number of oil extraction operations in the county, we have received no applications from companies interested in fracking.  Last month, DCLG issued planning practice guidance for onshore oil and gas. We plan to take a paper through Environmental Scrutiny considering this, and that will provide the opportunity for us to address policy options (as well as clarifying information around the geology etc).
Regards,  Tony

Fair enough, you might think.  What Tony McArdle did not say was that in July Lincolnshire County Council granted planning permission for drilling at Laughton.  The application made no mention of fracking, the plan being to drill an exploratory well into the Carboniferous sandstone reservoir rocks that may produce oil conventionally.  The company that applied and were granted permission was a small firm with other operating experience in Lincolnshire, Blackland Park Exploration.  This company does not have, on its own, the resources to explore and develop an oilfield so is working with a larger company, Egdon Resources Plc.  They are the Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL) holders for the area and are providing 100% of the finance for the project.
Let us return to Tony McArdle’s statement “we have received no applications from companies interested in fracking”.
It is true that the Laughton application from Blackland Park Exploration gave no indication that they had any interest in fracking and the application itself was for exploration for conventional oil.  However, since the project is to be 100% financed by Egdon, it is this company’s intentions that should be looked into.
On Egdon’s website they publicly state, after a description of the immediate purpose of the Laughton drill, the following:
Egdon also recognises that there is potential for significant shale-gas resources to be present within parts of the Licence.  The Company’s current evaluation indicates that the Pendleian Shale shale-gas play extends over about 45 square kilometres of PEDL209. Using similar parameters to those defined by RPS Energy in their independent evaluation of the prospective shale-gas resources in PEDL139 and PEDL140, Egdon estimates that the total in-place volume of gas within the Pendleian Shale interval in PEDL209 could alone amount to over 3 Trillion cubic feet.  Further, as with PEDL139 and PEDL140, PEDL209 is interpreted as holding additional shale-gas potential in the thick Lower Carboniferous sequence which underlies the Pendleian Shale but which remains to be tested by drilling in the region.  Neither of these sequences will be penetrated in the planned Laughton-1 well.
Obtaining gas from these shales that underlie the Laughton site would only be possible by fracking so one has to conclude that Egdon Resources are indeed interested in fracking, a conclusion which is not obvious from the Lincolnshire Chief Executive’s reply to his Councillor, “we have received no applications from companies interested in fracking”.
I do not know whether Tony McArdle was aware of the connection between Blackland and Egdon or whether he was aware of Egdon’s interest in the underlying gas shale but I am inclined to think that he’s paid to find such things out before responding to a Councillor’s question.  And he does not appear to have agreed to Cllr, Dodd’s suggestion, “Would it be possible for all members to have a briefing paper quite quickly about where those locations are, what stage of the process we are at, and what we can expect for the future.” 
To say that there are no such locations is not the whole truth and Laughton is not alone..  A second such location is at Biscathorpe where, I am informed by Marc Willis, Principal Planning Officer (Development Management) that a planning application for an exploratory well has been received and is currently being validated.  Like Laughton, the application is to drill into conventional oil reservoir rocks, but also as at Laughton, the site is underlain by a great thickness of Lower Carboniferous gas-bearing shales.  The same company, Egdon Resources Plc, is behind the project.  I would expect the Chief Executive and the Principal Planning Officer to share information on issues that are currently at the centre of national politics.



Why am I bothered? It takes less than two minutes but this little video from Kevin Anderson, Deputy director of Tyndall Centre for Climate Research provides the key. Please watch it.

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