Government guidance on fracking consent

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BY RUTH HAYHURST ON FEBRUARY 15, 2017

The government published information today on what shale gas companies need to do to get final go-ahead to frack.

As well as securing planning permission and environmental permits, companies must meet a set of conditions before the government gives consent for hydraulic fracturing.

The conditions, set out in the Infrastructure Act, include issues, such as restrictions on where fracking can be carried out, monitoring of air and groundwater and providing community benefits.

The latest guidance from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) sets out what information should be submitted to the Secretary of State as evidence of meeting the conditions.

It applies only to “associated hydraulic fracturing”, defined in the Act as injection of more than 1,000 cubic metres of fluid at each fracking stage or more than 10,000 cubic metres in total.

According to the guidance, the Secretary of State will review the evidence to decide whether he or she is satisfied that “it is appropriate to issue” hydraulic fracturing consent. The minister may also impose his or her own conditions.

The guidance warns operators:

Changed circumstances which could be viewed as a breach of conditions should be discussed as soon as possible with BEIS to ensure this does not invalidate the consent
Fracking must stop if there is a breach of conditions
Fracking without a valid hydraulic fracturing consent would breach the exploration licence
Timing
The Secretary of State will decide when fracking can begin and when the consent expires.

The guidance makes clear that the consent might not take effect immediately. It gives as an example:

“Where the Secretary of State is satisfied that the level of methane in groundwater will have been monitored for 12 months before the associated hydraulic fracturing begins, the HFC [hydraulic fracturing consent] will not take effect until that 12 month period has expired”.

Documentary evidence
Condition 1: The environmental impact of the development which includes the relevant well has been taken into account by the local planning authority
Evidence required: Notice from the planning authority confirming that environmental information was taken into account when granting planning permission.

Condition 2: Appropriate arrangements have been made for the independent inspection of the integrity of the relevant well
Evidence required: Certificate from the Health and Safety Executive that it has visited the site and received both a well notification under regulation 6 of the Borehole Sites and Operations Regulations 1995 and information required by regulation 19 of the Offshore Installations and Wells (Design and Construction, etc) Regulations 1996.

Condition 3: The level of methane in groundwater has, or will have, been monitored in the period of 12 months before the associated hydraulic fracturing begins
Evidence required: Relevant section of environmental permit or plans for groundwater monitoring

Condition 4: Appropriate arrangements have been made for the monitoring of emissions of methane into the air
Evidence required: Relevant section of environmental permit or plans for methane emissions monitoring to air.

Condition 5: The associated hydraulic fracturing will not take place within protected groundwater source areas
Evidence required: Relevant part of Environment Agency permit decision document which “should explain that the proposed site/s are not within a protected groundwater source area”. BEIS said it may also ask the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) or licensee to provide information on any plans to frack below a protected groundwater source area.

Condition 6: The associated hydraulic fracturing will not take place within other protected areas
Evidence required: Notice from the planning authority that fracking will not take place in other protected areas, defined in the Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing (Protected Areas) Regulation 2015. BEIS said it may ask the OGA or licensee to confirm the proposals do not including drilling in protected areas.

Condition 7: The local planning authority has (where material) taken into account the cumulative effects of (a) that application, and (b) other applications relating to exploitation of onshore petroleum obtainable by hydraulic fracturing
Evidence required: Notice from the planning authority

Condition 8: The substances used, or expected to be used, in associated hydraulic fracturing— (a) are approved, or (b) are subject to approval, by the relevant environmental regulator
Evidence required: Relevant section of environmental permit

Condition 9: Local planning authority has considered whether to impose a restoration condition
Evidence required: Notice from planning authority

Condition 10: The relevant undertaker [water or sewerage company] has been consulted before grant of the relevant planning permission
Evidence required: Notice from planning authority

Condition 11: The public was given notice of the application for the relevant planning permission
Evidence required: Notice from planning authority

Additional conditions
Appropriate arrangements have been made for the publication of the results of the monitoring
Evidence required: Letter setting out “precise details” of publication

A scheme is in place to provide financial or other benefit for the local area
Evidence required: Documentation summarising the details of the community benefits scheme put in place

Links
Hydraulic fracturing consent guidance

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