Step forward for INEOS plan for second shale gas well – no environmental impact assessment needed

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Plans by INEOS for a second shale gas well in the East Midlands will not need an environmental impact assessment, according to the local council.

Rotherham Metropolitan Borough ruled yesterday that the company’s proposals for a vertical core well at Common Road, near Harthill, would “not be likely to have significant effects on the environment”.

An opinion, published on the council’s website, said any impacts would be localised, temporary or not significant.

The council’s director of planning, regeneration and transportation service, Chris Wilkins, said there were no known environmentally-sensitive sites and features nearby that would be affected. He said the site was not in an area of important landscape designations and there were no national or international ecological or historic designations covering the site or the immediate neighbourhood.

The opinion agreed with INEOS that the well site should not be regarded as an integral part of a more substantial project. The council said:

“Whilst there is potential to lead to a more substantial future development, it is not inevitably the case since the data obtained from the exploratory well may not support a more substantial later development.

“For this reason, it is considered that the development is capable of being classed as a standalone development and should be screened in isolation in this case.”

A decision on the Harthill site is now likely to be quicker than if an EIA had been required. Planning applications that do not need an EIA are required to be determined in 13 weeks. Producing the Environmental Statement required by an EIA can take up to a year.

In February, Derbyshire County Council came to the same EIA decision on INEOS’s first proposed shale gas well at Bramleymoor Lane, near the village of Marsh Lane (DrillOrDrop report).

Since then, there have been at least three challenges to that decision to the Communities’ Secretary and INEOS has also asked for a ministerial ruling. This won’t be announced until after the general election on 8 June.

INEOS said this morning that it had not decided yet whether it would ask the Communities’ Secretary to rule on the Harthill scheme.

The company’s operations director, Tom Pickering, said:

“We are very pleased that the latest step in the process has now been completed. While we are not required to complete a formal EIA, all relative environmental concerns will be addressed as part of the application and we are looking forward to continuing to work with the Council and community to discuss these as the project moves forward.”

Harthill details
The Harthill proposal, which does not include fracking, has five phases:

Site development and establishment (3 months)
Drilling and coring (5 months)
Establishment as a listening well and suspension (1 week and then until restoration)
Undertaking listening well operations (3 weeks)
Abandonment and restoration (1.5 months)
According to information supplied by INEOS, the site is 1.14ha, in open countryside near the villages of Harthill and Thorpe Salvin. It is within a landfill gas consultation zone and within the western side of the Netherthorpe Airfield buffer zone. Drilling the well to 2,800m would use a 60m high drill rig and would take place 24-hours a day.

During stage 1, there would be up to 40 days with more than 10 heavy goods vehicle (HGV) movements per day and three weeks with 50-60 HGV movements a day (5 per hour over a 12-hour period).

In stage 2, at the beginning and end of drilling, there would be 20-42 HGV movements daily and another 16 movements by HGVs of more than 32 tonnes when the rig was mobilised and demobilised.

The well pad would be surfaced with 9,000 tonnes of aggregate, which would be trucked into the site. It would be surrounded by a 2m high planted soil bund and industrial cabins, stacked two high.

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