14 April 2024

East Riding Council sends message to Government: We don’t want fracking

East Riding Council has voted to send a message to the Government that the region does not want fracking.

At a full meeting of the council yesterday, 49 councillors were in favour of Lib Dem Linda Johnson’s motion, with none against and six abstentions.

No one spoke against the motion, which had asked the council to agree that “fracking activities in the East Riding of Yorkshire are inappropriate for an area where the council has declared a climate emergency”.

It was supported by Jonathan Owen, leader of the Conservative-led authority, who said he understood the need for energy security in the UK, “but this is not the way”.

Ahead of the meeting, Beverley and Holderness MP Graham Stuart told the Gazette: “The lift in the moratorium against fracking has, understandably, caused concern from some of my constituents. Fracking should only proceed if the science shows that it is safe, sustainable and minimises disturbances to local communities.

“Britain’s focus will be to accelerate the deployment of wind, nuclear, solar and hydrogen power, while supporting the production of domestic North Sea oil and gas in the nearer term, which could see 95 per cent of UK electricity by 2030 being low-carbon.

“These measures will be central to weaning Britain off expensive fossil fuels, which are subject to uncontrollable and volatile prices, and will provide both cleaner and more affordable energy, and energy security.

“While the UK is driving down demand for fossil fuels on the path to net-zero, it is important to recognise that there will continue to be ongoing demand for oil and gas while we transition to low-carbon energy.”

Rathlin Energy earlier said that high-volume hydraulic fracking “does not form part of the company’s work programme” despite the fears of local campaigners.

According to a Competent Person’s Report (CPR) commissioned by Rathlin Energy for investors, 15 wells could be placed at its gas drilling site near West Newton. Currently the site only has two wells and Rathlin has recently secured planning permission from East Riding Council to add four more.

Campaign group West Newton Said No!, opposes the plans, citing damage to the local environment, noise pollution and heavy HGV traffic among the reasons.

As the Gazette went to press yesterday, the Conservative-led East Riding Council was debating a motion to confirm the authority’s opposition to fracking.

Beverley and Holderness MP Graham Stuart told the Gazette: “The lift in the moratorium against fracking has, understandably, caused concern from some of my constituents. Fracking should only proceed if the science shows that it is safe, sustainable and minimises disturbances to local communities.

“Britain’s focus will be to accelerate the deployment of wind, nuclear, solar and hydrogen power, while supporting the production of domestic North Sea oil and gas in the nearer term, which could see 95 per cent of UK electricity by 2030 being low-carbon.

“These measures will be central to weaning Britain off expensive fossil fuels, which are subject to uncontrollable and volatile prices, and will provide both cleaner and more affordable energy, and energy security.

“While the UK is driving down demand for fossil fuels on the path to net-zero, it is important to recognise that there will continue to be ongoing demand for oil and gas while we transition to low-carbon energy.”

A spokesman for West Newton Said No! said: “Rathlin initially turned up at West Newton virtually without notice. No one locally knew what was happening until they started building the well pad.

“It was a terrible shock to many that they didn’t get a say in what was going on. They picked a very quiet area, tucked away down a single-track lane.

“They then got permissions to drill a second well at West Newton A. A couple of years later they wanted another site with two more wells, bringing the total of drills to four.

“Last year they applied for six new wells, bringing the total to 10. The opposition had grown substantially by then and this was turned down. However, they quickly submitted a new application for four new wells instead, which was granted. Now, it has been revealed that they plan for 15 horizontal wells. It has been ‘mission creep’ since day one with Rathlin Energy.

“The community feels they have been left out in the cold by the council with no understanding of how these companies operate. It always starts with just one well, then two, then they slowly hoodwink councillors into thinking it’s temporary and only a few wells. And now more communities will be affected. Watching people cry, seeing the fear in their eyes, is heart- breaking.”

The Rathlin CPR report does not mention fracking, but identifies that, in addition to the wells at the West Newton site, near Aldbrough, there is a potential reserve of gas at three more sites in Ellerby, Spring Hill, and near Withernsea.

It says that Rathlin believes it is “extremely close to realising commercial production in the West Newton area by employing horizontal wells using high-quality drilling and completion fluids and small, optimised stimulation, as necessary.”

Fears over fracking activity were heightened after Jacob Rees-Mogg, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, lifted the ban on fracking in an attempt to boost the UK economy by producing more home-grown energy.

The West Newton Said No! spokesman added: “Back in 2014 they said they weren’t fracking, quelling fears from locals.

“However, they carried out a mini fall-off test, which is also known as a mini-frac, which involved pumping 10,000 litres of water and potassium chloride into the shale rock to the point of fracture.”

A statement from Rathlin Energy said: “Rathlin Energy (UK) Limited’s current planning permissions provide for drilling of five more wells (four from the A site and from the B site) and producing from six wells from the West Newton A site.

“The 15 wells noted in the CPR reference the total number of wells that the project would require, in the high reserve case scenario, to maximise the recovery of the gas reserves.

“The Bowland shale does exist under licence PEDL183 and was penetrated in both the Crawberry Hill 1 and West Newton 1 wells.

“While this resource may have significant unconventional gas reserves associated with it, high- volume hydraulic fracking would be required to produce it.

“Rathlin Energy’s focus remains on the conventional gas reserves in the Kirkham Abbey reservoir.

“So, in other words, high-volume hydraulic fracturing within the Bowland shale (the issue that concerns most people) does not form part of the company’s work programme.”