Recruiting Begins For Survey In North Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire
After years of threats chemical giant turned fracking company Ineos seems set to try to get ‘boots on the ground’ with a planned seismic survey in North Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire aiming to start soon. The survey has been significantly delayed by a robust community response. Ineos began approaching landowners in Sept 2016 and was originally talking about starting work in Sept/Oct 2016. Now recruitment adverts have begun appearing from a military logistics company called Arturius International trying to recruit ex-military personnel for a survey to begin soon.
Fracking Survey Threat
This is likely to be the first of many such planned surveys as Ineos, which has acquired 1.2 million acres of fracking licences in the UK, as well as other companies which have obtained new licences in the 14th Round, seek to exploit these areas. The first step is usually gathering seismic data in order to allow them to select sites for test drilling. The geological data gathered during these tests will be invaluable to the industry, and threatens to advance its plans for fracking large areas of the UK. Fracking exploitation could mean the drilling of tens of thousands of wells across large regions, threatening hundreds or thousands of communities. Impacts, including pipelines, air pollution and waste disposal, will also spread far beyond the areas being drilled.
However, this fracking end game requires billions of investment which is the industry’s Achilles heel, along with the large number of local communities it must get past to achieve its goal. The industry must move step by step gathering data to provide justification for further expenditure/investment (even in the case of Ineos, Ineos Shale will not get access to the parent company’s cash unless it can show there is a good chance of a return on that investment). Surveys are highly intrusive and require unrestricted access to very large areas of land. The survey process itself can cause damage, stress and disruption for local communities. As well as geological data, social data on the levels of resistance will affect investment decisions and that is where local communities have a chance to influence events.
The fracking industry and governments in the US, Canada and Australia considers resistance by local people to be an “insurgency”, and anti-fracking groups, particularly in poorer or maginalised communities, are routinely labelled as terrorists, subjected to psychological warfare operations, intimidation and police violence. In the UK there have been attempts to target people opposed to fracking as “extremists” and Cuadrilla Resources has previously employed mercenary company Tutis Concepts, more used to guarding oil refineries in Iraq to guard its sites in Lancashire, as well as Gurkas from G4S, while IGas acquired its Misson fracking site from an arms dealer whose chief executive has been convicted of selling military vehicles to Sudan in breach of an arms embargo.
Arturius International is logistics company based in Wiltshire which was formed in 2013 by planners and project managers from the British, French and US Armed Forces. The company claims to have “specialist skills in planning, reconnaissance and designing deliverable, robust solutions in hostile and unforgiving locations” and offers “integrated operational support to conventional and unconventional oil and gas, mining, defence and critical infrastructure sectors”. The company appears to employ mostly ex-military personnel and has close links with various NATO armed forces. Arturius’ chairman is Lord David Richards, former Chief of the Defence Staff, who has also worked as an advisor to the government of the United Arab Emirates and US-based arms company DynCorp.
In March 2015 Arturius announced that it had signed a long term contract with United Oilfield Services (UOS) to provide operational support services for all its UK projects. UOS is company setup in Poland to provide well stimulation, well testing, drilling, and seismic data acquisition services to the fracking industry there, which begs the question who might they have been planning to work for in the UK. While Arturius do not mention the ultimate client for this work, this was the same month that Ineos signed a £30m deal with IGas, massively expanding its interests in fracking licence areas.
Later in 2015 Arturius appear to have gained new investment with Alex Preston, founded of Verivox a german energy company, joining Arturius’s board.
United Oilfield Services have recently hit the rocks due to the failure of the fracking industry in Poland, but it seems Arturius have now cut out the middle man and are working directly for Ineos. Arturius have been placing advertisements in various places for ex-service personnel to work as seismic survey crews in the Chesterfield, Mansfield and Worksop areas. The adverts mention an initial 6 month contract starting soon, but also that it is the first of a series covering Northern England, and that the next 6 month contract (presumably in a different area) will begin as soon as the first finished. Given that Ineos has 1.2 million acres of licences in the UK, much of it recently acquired in the 14th onshore licencing round, Arturius may be heavily involved in plans for a series of surveys across Ineos’s licence areas.
While it is highly unclear what, if any, involvement UOS’s former equipment and staff might play in this survey, it is clear that Arturius is recuiting workers and leasing vehicles to begin the first phase of the survey soon. There is no indication that Arturius has the technical expertise or equipment needed conduct the whole survey though, suggesting a missing piece to this puzzle. UOS was in possession of a large amount of seismic surveying equipment as well as the staff to operate it, but what has now happened to that equipment and expertise is unclear.
While the greatest threat from these surveys is the data they provide to facilitate future fracking, the survey process itself is not without consequences. Complaints from local residents about impacts from seismic surveys have been documented around the world, including in Colorado, Ohio, Texas, Poland, Trinidad and Tobago, Bangladesh, and India. These impacts span the range from rattling windows and noise pollution to structural damage to buildings and subsurface structures, such as water boreholes, pipes and septic tanks.
Seismic surveys are by their very nature highly intrusive, requiring access to large areas of land, for which the companies do not want go to the trouble and cost of obtain permission for access. The seismic survey carried out by Cuadrilla in Lancashire between April and June 2012 is a typical example. Many residents complained of contractors trespassing on their gardens and fields to lay cabling, or even to plant explosive charges. In one garden only the owner chasing them off stopped an explosive charge being planted near a gas main.
Across the globe there are numerous examples of resistance to seismic surveys. Two particularly pertinent examples are those of SWN Resources in New Brunswick, Canada and Romgaz in Sibiu County, Romania. In New Brunswick tactics centred around blocking survey vehicles from moving on roads, beginning with a two day blockade in August 2011. Resistance continued, with the native Mi’kmaq people taking the lead, and culminated in a series of blockades (and other actions) through much of 2013, which incurred significant state repression.
In the Romanian region of Transylvania attempts by seismic contractor Prospectiuni SA to conduct a survey for state owned Romgaz have been met with a campaign of sabotage and denial of access to land. In the face of sustained intimidation from police and security contractors hired by Romgaz, miles of seismic cabling has been ripped up while farmers have repeatedly chased testing crews off their land. Even under this intense scrutiny the invasive nature of seismic surveys was clear to see, with the company leaving numerous undetonated explosive charges unguarded for anyone to stumble over.
Take Action Now
For guidance on opposing a survey in your area read this useful FAQ. Use these Seismic Survey Flyers for raising awareness about the threat posed by seismic surveys in your area. There is also a Seismic Spotter Sheet that highlights the signs and activity that are associated with a survey being carried out in your area.
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