- Year of more delays/costs for fracking industry
- 2016 began with major threat in Lancashire
- A year on there is no progress on ground
- Strong community opposition slowing industry
- Number of communities threatened is growing
- Increased efforts to block local decision making
- Movement will need to adapt to stay effective
- This is a battle which we cannot afford to lose
2016 has been a year of little progress, or in many cases no progress, for the fracking industry. The anti-fracking movement, on the other hand, has gone from strength to strength, with almost 300 anti-fracking groups across the country. The only area where significant progress has been made is in the issuing of new fracking licences at a national level, where the political system effectively insulates the industry from the communities it effects. Meanwhile at a more local level the industry has been finding it increasingly difficult to drive its plans through massive community opposition.
Cuadrilla’s flagship plans for two large shale gas appraisal sites in Lancashire are typical of the industry as a whole. A year of sustained community campaigning has left Cuadrilla with one site still mired in a court battle and the other knocked back to another planning inquiry. It seems likely that Cuadrilla will start work on the Preston New Road site this year but given that it is hemorrhaging cash even before it begins work, the potential for community resistance to turn this project .
A response to the effectiveness of this opposition has been steadily emerging. A series of measures designed to move decision making further away from the communities it effects and into the hands of central government. It seems likely that to continue to be effective, while the overall strategy of creating delays and increasing costs in order to wear the fracking industry down will not change, the movement will need to get more creative in the methods it uses to achieve this. As the industry works to find ways of closing off avenues through which communities can take control of their destiny, it will be up to the movement to invent new ones. In the end this is a fight to the death, either the fracking companies get to coat the country in tens of thousands of wells or we drive them in to bankruptcy, there are no other options.
January – Frack-test to take place in Surrey
Fracking companies plan to return to the Horse Hill site near Horley in Surrey, where a tight/shale oil exploration was previously drilled, with work-over rig to conduct 30 days of testing. The Kimmeridge Clay shale layer, which underlies large parts of Sussex and Surrey.
The geological data gathered during these tests will be invaluable to the industry, and threaten to advance plans for fracking large areas of the Weald Basin. Tight oil exploitation could mean the drilling of thousands of wells across the region and threatened communities after mobilising.
Years of tireless community campaigning, public meetings, companies bought and sold, a two year community protection camp and an eviction that cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. IGas have temporarily thrown in the towel.
This is by no means the end of the fight to protect this part of the Cheshire from fracking, but it’s a massive delay and a massive victory. Faced with this level of local and regional opposition the industry needs to try something else. What that will be and when is anyone’s guess. But for now – it’s time to celebrate!
The recent flow test of a well at Horse Hill in Surrey, targeted the Kimmeridge Clay and deeper Lias shale formations. This “tight oil” deposit is similar to the Bakken Shale in North Dakota. Fracking company UK Oil & Gas (UKOG) are planning to return to conduct further testing and their recent announcements to shareholders reveals their long term goal.
With the threat of thousands of wells across the region, plus processing plants, pipelines and waste sites UKOG’s strategy has been to focus attention just on what they are doing now and try to distract from the big picture. The huge investment needed means, that like most other UK fracking companies, their ultimate goal is most likely to sell out to much large company. UKOG will need planning permission and more sites to move their fracking plans forward.
Coastal Oil and Gas has dropped its challenge over plans to drill for unconventional gas at Llanharan in south Wales, though it plans to look for another site in the area. Like most fracking companies, Coastal is a small company with limited resources and has previously given up on a site in Keynsham near Bristol due to community pressure.
The company informed the Planning Inspectorate that it was withdrawing its appeal against the refusal of plans to explore for unconventional gas. The news comes just over a week after the appeal was validated. While far from the end of the fight to protect South Wales from fracking, this is another nail in the industry’s coffin.
North Yorkshire Council has decided to grant fracking company Third Energy planning permission to frack a well on a site at Kirby Misperton in Ryedale. These plans could pave the way for thousands of fracking wells to spread across Yorkshire and many other parts of the country if not stopped. Impacts, including pipelines, air pollution and waste disposal will spread far beyond the areas being drilled.
This decision is one skirmish in a wider battle, and Third Energy’s plans in Ryedale, the most advanced fracking exploration to be attempted in the region, are the thin end of a very large wedge. The Kirby Misperton well was initially sold as being conventional drilling but Third Energy drilled the well deeper to sample the shale and now wants to test whether gas can be extracted from it.
After facing massive community opposition to their drilling at Woodburn Forest in Northern Ireland, some of the joint venture partners withdrew from funding it further. While sold as conventional the well was also planned to target deeper formations with the potential for unconventional extraction.
In their statement Petro River Oil states “A majority of the well participants supported drilling deeper, however several of the other well participants declined, and the decision was made to plug and abandon the well.” Baron Oil note that Infrastrata encountered “difficult circumstances” in Woodburn Forest. This is another massive victory for community resistance.
If your area is licensed for fracking, a seismic survey is a likely next step. Aurora Energy Resources are trying to carry out 3D seismic surveying in Sefton area of Merseyside. Many landowners have already been bullied into allowing these test to take place on their land, as refusing access would result in high court action, sanctioned by the Secretary of State.
The survey is being carried out by Tesla Exploration International (now bankrupt) and involves vehicles and equipment spreading across the area marking out survey lines, augering/drilling and pre charging shot points with explosives, laying out recording nodes, data acquisition points, shot point firing and vibroseis trucks.
Communities from across the region gathered in York on Saturday for the biggest ever anti-fracking march held in Yorkshire. Demonstrators marched through York in protest at Third Energy’s plans for fracking at Kirby Misperton and the granting of new licences allowing companies to frack for shale gas across Yorkshire.
In addition to Third Energy’s plans in Ryedale, fracking companies Cuadrilla Resources and INEOS Upstream have also recently acquired licences covering large areas of Yorkshire.
Fracking company INEOS Upstream is planning to carry out seismic surveys across the new licence areas it has been offered in the 14th licencing round. The areas it is targeting first are in South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.
INEOS is trying to gain access to the land it needs for the surveys and has indicated it want to begin work imminently. Seismic surveys provide fracking companies with geological data necessary to select sites for test drilling and secure more 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.
A new report by the British Geological Survey (BGS) estimates the Lower Lias shale formation in the Wessex Basin contains around 1.1 billion barrels of oil. This about a quarter of the amount the BGS estimated for the Weald Basin where the Kimmeridge Clay is the main threat.
The most threatened areas in the Wessex Basin are the Purbeck District of Dorset and the southern half of the Isle of Wight, but other parts of the Dorset and Hampshire could also be affected. Exploitation of the Lower Lias would require drilling a several hundred to a thousand plus wells, at densities of up to 8 wells per square mile, over these areas.
Anti-fracking groups from across Lancashire gathered are continuing to mobilise to oppose Cuadrilla Resources plans for large scale tests at the Preston New Road site on the Fylde Coast in Lancashire.
In contrast fracking company Cuadrilla, has announced further losses of $17.671m for the 12 months ending 31 December 2015, up from $11.568m on the previous year. IGas are also in trouble. In the half-yearly accounts published earlier this month the company raised questions about its ability to operate as a going concern.
The fracking threat in the South East is growing, with a new shale oil drilling attempt in Surrey. Angus Energy plans to a drill a well at its Brockham site near Dorking, targeting the Kimmeridge Clay shale layer. This is the same tight/shale oil formation targeted at Balcombe and Horse Hill.
Angus is also one of the first companies to receive a mining waste permit under new Environment Agency “standard rules”, which means no public consultation or disclosure of what the company is up to. A camp has been setup outside the site and the local people are mobilising against the threat (see Brockham Community Protection Blockade).
With the continued mobilisation of active and organised communities the coming year can be equally successful in thwarting the fracking industry’s plans. If you want to start a group in your area see our Get Involved page or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.