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Ellesmere Port exploration well to see new planning application

But frack-free activists call for objections

The IGas test drill rig in Merseyton Road in 2014(Image: Trinity Mirror Copyright)

Tests are proposed by IGas at its Ellesmere Port exploration site at Merseyton Road.

The company controversially drilled at Portside in late 2014 with the rig starting work despite the efforts of community protectors.

The vertical well encountered a thick section of coal and a ‘very significant’ shale section of approximately 1,400ft it was reported at the time.

Preliminary analysis of sample cores was said to have revealed ‘significant’ indications of gas.

Following the drilling the site was cleared although the security fences remained.

IGas has now posted a notice stating it intends to apply for planning permission for underground operations. It is seeking consent to mobilise test equipment, including a rig up to 30m in height, carry out a ‘workover’ of the well and to conduct tests of the gas flow.

No drilling would take place and the rig would lower tools into the well. There would also be a 12.2m high flare stack. The company says it intends to test in expected gas carrying rock rather than in the coal seams.

A Freedom of Information request by a Chester resident has disclosed that agents for IGas felt the work could be carried out as a ‘non material amendment’ to the original permission. This was said to be the most suitable way of carrying out the operation.

This was not accepted by the borough council which said a fresh planning application would be required.

If permission is granted the initial phase of the work lasting seven days would involve 20 heavy goods vehicle (HGV) movements according to the agents.

Testing would last 30 days with 10 HGV trips with a further seven days and 20 HGVs to close down.

The agents explain the gas may flow naturally but a second phase may be necessary using a dilute acid solution being circulated down the borehole and into the rock.

Both approaches are ‘commonly deployed’ in the industry and no fracturing would be involved.

The increased height of the flare from 5m would offer significantly increased performance and the company had worked with the Environment Agency on its design.

All the operations would be subject to regulatory review and would be carried out in accordance with the necessary permits and consents.

IGas commented: “After engaging with various local stakeholders over the last few weeks we submitted a planning application to Chester West & Chester Council on Friday, July 21, to carry out further testing work on our existing well on our site in Ellesmere Port.

“We will provide more details about the application once it has been validated by the council and have plans to hold a public exhibition detailing the proposed works in due course.”

Frack Free Ellesmere Port has posted to Ellesmere Port and Neston MP Justin Madders (Lab) and others saying: “We need to get our objections in.”

The IGas notice explains that once the application has been submitted people can examine the application, plans and other documents at Ellesmere Port library on Civic Way until August 10.

They will also be available at the council offices at 4 Civic Way and online on the borough council website. Representations should be made to the council at 4 Civic Way.

Dart Energy, now IGas, was granted a 25 year planning permission in 2010 at Merseyton Road.

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