- Dart Energy tied up fighting Scots communities
- Appealing application for first production in UK
- Now £24m GDF Suez investment driving activity
- 3-5 CBM well drilling campaign under way
- Shale gas exploration wells planned to follow
- Drilling rig being erected at site in Cheshire
- Well pad under construction at Daneshill, Notts
- 2 more sites in Cheshire and Wrexham lined up
- Exploration wells potentially just beginning
- Threat of thousands of wells across regions
- Local communities are mobilising in response
- Areas are new front in the fight against fracking
Dart Energy, one of the big 3 fracking companies in the UK along with Cuadrilla Resources and IGas Energy, has been bogged down fighting the community at Airth in Scotland, where it wants to start production, rather than just exploration, beginning with 22 Coal Bed Methane (CBM) wells plus associated infrastructure. However, with over 50 planning permissions for exploration wells across the country (most inherited from companies it has bought out – Composite Energy and Greenpark Energy), it was only a matter of time before Dart turned its attention to other regions.
The injection of £24 million from GDF Suez, a large french utility company, is the catalyst. The Australian fracking company, which was driven out of Australia by community resistance to its plans, is now focusing its efforts on countries like Indonesia and the UK, where there is less regulation. The troubled fracking company saw a boardroom coup in November which ousted its previous management. Now with activity starting at two sites, in Cheshire and Nottinghamshire, it appears to be launching a major push to try to reverse its fortunes at the expense of more local communities.
In October, Dart applied to the Environment Agency for a permit for Mining Waste Operations (EPR/AB3805XS/A001) at their Kings Marsh site near Farndon, Cheshire. This was followed by two more applications for mining waste permits for Dart’s sites at Upton near Chester in Cheshire and Daneshill near Retford in Nottinghamshire. Since the extra scrutiny brought about by fracking, the Environment Agency has started enforcing the laws requiring oil and gas drilling operations to have these permits.
More recently Dart has applied for a permit for Mining Waste Operations (EPR/MB3993HU/A001 – consultation ends 6th March) at their Borras Road site near Holt, Wrexham. Dart seem somewhat over confident, since the planning application was only due to be considered by Wrexham County Council’s planning committee on Monday (3d March). In the event the meeting decided to postponed the decision and ask Dart to provide more information. If they can get the planning application passed the information provide by Dart suggests they intend to start drilling at Borras Road on or after the 1st July.
People living near the sites in Chester extemely worried. The Upton site in particular, which is on the north site of Chester close to Chester Zoo, has raised community concerns since there are 8 schools within a mile of the site. There has also been significant community opposition around the Borras Road site with a public meeting held and over a thousand local people have shown their opposition to the drilling. Groups resisting fracking in the Cheshire/Wrexham area include Frack Free Upton (Facebook) and Frack Free Farndon (Facebook).
Meanwhile, in the East Midlands, where the threat of shale gas exploration also looms, local people held a protest at the Daneshill CBM site on 22nd February, as Dart began work to prepare the site for drilling. A small camp has now been built close to the site and momentum is building to resist Dart’s invasion there, as well. Work has now been temporarily suspended at the site after Dart was caught violating the conditions of the planning permission. Groups involved in resisting fracking in the area include Bassetlaw Against Fracking (Facebook), Frack Free Nottinghamshire (Facebook) and Frack Free South Yorkshire.
There is also a fifth site on Salters Lane near Mickle Trafford, Cheshire where Dart have extended their planning application, but have not as yet applied for a mining waste permit yet. While the exact order is not entirely clear, it seems likely that Dart plans to drill up to 5 CBM wells (3 in Cheshire, 1 in Wrexham and 1 in Nottingham) in the coming months. With a rig now at the Kings Marsh site in Cheshire, drilling is likely to start imminently. It seems likely that the two other Cheshire sites (Upton and Borras Road) would be next in the firing line. It appears Dart is hoping that it can blitzkrieg through drilling these 4 sites before people wake up to what they are doing. There is also a fifth site on Salters Lane near Mickle Trafford where Dart have extended their planning application, but have not applied for a mining waste permit yet.
These exploration wells are potentially just the tip of a massive iceberg. The quantities of gas which Dart is bragging that it might be able to get out of these licence areas would require thousands of wells to be drilled. If all this gas could be extracted it would require 3,400 CBM and 3,100 Shale wells in Cheshire and 2,400 CBM and 4,800 Shale wells in the East Midlands. Thousands of miles of pipelines, compressor stations, gas processing plants and waste disposal facilities would also be needed.
In the East Midlands Dart’s licences cover over 500 square miles, in a swath from Doncaster through Worksop and Gainsborough to Lincoln, as well as areas running north from Scunthorpe to York. In Cheshire/Wrexham Dart’s licences cover over 250 square miles, stretching from Chester south through Wrexham to Oswestry. Success for Dart means pushing these projects forward to the point where they can be sold on to a major player with the money needed to coat these areas in fracking wells.
This vast number of potential wells (in some areas both CBM and Shale), plus other infrastructure, would bring with them a host of severe impacts, including Water Contamination, Air Pollution, Radioactive Contamination, Human Health, Agriculture & Animal Health, Wildlife, Methane Migration, Climate Change, Fracking Waste,Water Usage, Earthquakes, Transport, Pipelines, Blowouts, Spills & Explosions, Frack Sand, Leaking Wells, Orphaned Wells, Industrialisation, Secrecy, Oppression, Corruption, and Bubble Economics.