By Rebecca Hannant
Residents in North Holderness have expressed fears over fracking after the Government lifted its ban on the controversial method of extracting shale gas.
Campaigners living near West Newton, where Rathlin Energy was given planning permission to create four new wells at an existing site in the area, have said the decision will bring “yet more misery to the local community”.
The Government announced on Thursday, September 22, that it had lifted the moratorium on fracking in England, citing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as one of the reasons the country needs to be more reliant on home-grown sources of energy while also reducing exposure to high fossil fuel prices set by global markets.
The Government also confirmed its support for a new oil and gas licensing round, expected to be launched by the North Sea Transition Authority in early October. More than 100 new licences are expected to come from the decision, which would would allow developers to search for commercially available oil and gas sources, but they would need to seek regulatory approval for any drilling or construction within their licensed area. Developers will need to have the necessary licences, permissions and consents in place before they can commence operations.
Currently East Yorkshire has 13 existing oil and gas licences, covering about 70 per cent of the area of the county.
Business and Energy Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg told Parliament: “In light of Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and weaponisation of energy, strengthening our energy security is an absolute priority, and – as the Prime Minister said – we are going to ensure the UK is a net energy exporter by 2040.
“To get there we will need to explore all avenues available to us through solar, wind, oil and gas production – so it’s right that we’ve lifted the pause to realise any potential sources of domestic gas.”
Due to the perceived adverse effects on the environment including leakage of methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons that can cause health problems and the possible contamination of groundwater, fracking for shale gas was banned in 2019.
However, the lifting of the ban has caused great concern among communities such as West Newton. As previously reported, Rathlin Energy had initially submitted plans to add six more oil wells to its West Newton site, but these were turned down last year. Further scaled-down proposals were submitted for four oil wells instead of six. The wells would drill horizontally under West Newton, Marton and Withernwick. These plans were accepted.
So far, Rathlin Energy has carried out exploratory drilling for gas and oil, but the company also has consent for 20 years of production of gas at the site from 2025. It is unclear if it will start fracking for gas as it has no gas pipelines to the West Newton site and it would need to obtain permission. However, it has been predicted that 50 million cubic feet of gas could be exported per day to the National Grid.
A spokesman from the West Newton said No! campaign group said: “The We Said No campaign has always said no to drilling for more oil and gas and are strongly against fracking. Also, Rathlin’s mother company is Connaught, a company in Canada which fracked widely over there.
“They have tried for more than 10 years to produce fracked gas in the UK without success, but they have caused great upset to local communities.
“It is likely that with Rathlin’s recent U-turn on oil production to gas yet again means they will frack here in East Yorkshire.
“The residents of East Yorkshire do not want this. It will bring yet more misery to the local community. The local community have already had 10 years of upheaval by the oil and gas industry, and they are more prepared for action than ever before to protect their communities’ health, environment, and wildlife.”
Next week’s full East Riding Council meeting, which will take place at 2pm on Wednesday, October 5, at County Hall in Beverley, will debate the issue after Liberal Democrat Linda Johnson submitted a motion.
The motion asks 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”, and that letters should be sent to the Prime Minister and Jacob Rees-Mogg to reinforce the message.
The meeting is open to the public but people are asked to book in advance by contacting the committee clerk because space is limited. The meeting can also be viewed on the council’s YouTube channel.