Fracking The East Midlands: Total Distraction

Summary

  • Oil giant Total plans £30 million investment
  • Mostly in Nottinghamshire and Doncaster
  • However most of East MIdlands threatened
  • Coalbed Methane (CBM) as well as Shale Gas
  • Coal more widespread than shale in region
  • CBM exploration wells already drilled by Dart
  • Shale Companies: eCorp, Egdon and Dart
  • Dart: £24 million Investment From GDF Suez
  • CBM Companies: Dart and IGas
  • Both fighting other Communities at present
  • Threat of Thousands of Wells in Medium Term
  • UCG also lurking Threat in the Region

Licence Blocks In The East Midlands With Total Investment In PEDL 139/140 Highlighted; Orange Symbols Are Dart Energy Drilled Or Permitted CBM Wells (Click To Enlarge)

Oil giant Total’s recently reported plans to invest £30 million in shale gas has gained media interest, but the real story is the larger threat to the whole East Midlands. Total is buying a stake in two licences PEDL 139 and 140 which are presently owned by eCORP, Dart Energy, Egdon Resources and IGas. These licences are actually mostly in the northern part of Nottinghamshire and Doncaster, rather than Lincolnshire as reported. There are plans for a “Gainsborough Deep” (pdf, page 14) exploration well in the second half of the year.

Beyond that, a large number of licences already exist in the East Midlands (see above graphic or our interactive map) and several companies are positioning themselves to profit from fracking. For instance Egdon Resources have recently bought into two licences, PL 161 and 162, which are adjacent to PEDL 139/140, and intend to exploring for shale gas. Even more of the region is likely to be given away by the government in the next licencing round which is expected in the first half of this year.

Areas Within The BGS/DECC Study Where It May Be Possible To Extract Gas From The Upper or Lower Bowland Shale, Or Both (Click To Enlarge)

The threat is not confined to shale gas though. The Bowland-Hodder Shale formation extends into the region, with the Gainsborough Trough in the north and the Widmerpool Gulf in the south (see British Geological Survey map below). There are coal seams under most of the region (coal resource map below) and consequentially the threat of coal bed methane (CBM) is also present. Dart Energy has already drilled (or has planning permission for) a number CBM exploration wells (orange symbols on the licence map above).

When it comes to shale, the companies which need the closest attention are eCorp, Egdon Resources and Dart Energy. eCorp is the main company involved in the licences which Total has invested in but has no other licences at present. Both Egdon Resources and Dart Energy have a number of other licences in the region, but Dart also has the advantage that French utility company GDF Suez has invested £24 million in its Bowland Shale licences, including in the East Midlands.

Potential Coal Resources In The UK Showing Coal Seams (Greens) Across Most Of The East Midlands; With Depth Increasing Towards The East (Click To Enlarge)

When it comes to CBM the main companies that need watching are Dart and IGas. Both have numerous licences in the region, and Dart has already drilled several CBM exploration wells. Both companies are also facing stiff opposition in other area, with Dart’s attempts to construct the first UK CBM production development stalled in Scotland and an ongoing community blockade of IGas’s site at Barton Moss near Manchester. While neither company has the East Midlands as its primary focus that could potentially change very quickly.

Fracking (whether shale or CBM) involves intense drilling (usually 4-8 wells per square mile) over very large areas (i.e. thousands of wells). The impacts this sort of intense drilling has had in other countries varied and severe. The UK’s largest onshore conventional gas field Saltfleetby in Lincolnshire had only 8 wells but shale or CBM would require drilling hundreds of wells to produce the same amount of gas. The number of wells that would be needed to produced the amounts of gas that are being bragged about are terrifying.

Finally, another extreme fossil fuel extraction technology, Underground Coal Gasification (UCG), is also making headway in the UK. It involves setting fire to coal underground in order to produce a synthetic gas. There are two UCG licence blocks just off the coast of Lincolnshire (see black areas on the licence map above). Even more worryingly an application for a UCG licence in the Warwickshire suggests UCG licencing might move on shore, and this could put large areas of the region squarely in the firing line.

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