CHESTER could become the Dallas of the north after a large natural gas field was discovered on the outskirts of the city.
Drilling firm IGas Energy says test results indicate more than nine trillion cubic feet of shale gas at its Ince Marshes site near Elton and other North West sites – the equivalent of 1,600 million barrels of oil.
IGas first stumbled upon the shale gas section in January while drilling forŠcoal bed methane.
However, extracting the gas is controversial as it uses so-called fracking technology which caused earthquakes when shale gas was drilled near Blackpool leading to the suspension of the Lancashire operation.
And environmentalists fear the chemicals pumped into the rock under pressure to release the gas can leak into ground water.
IGas chief executive Andrew Austin told shareholders: “The results of this year’s programme, particularly from our well at Ince marshes, are potentially transformational for the Group.”
But he insists IGas would only produce gas if it could be done “in a way that's acceptable” to the local community.
The chief executive said the firm, which also has drilling sites at Ellesmere Port and Doe Green, near Warrington, was now seeking a partner with 'complementary skills and resources' to accelerate the development of its potentially significant resource base.
He added: “The UK Government’s announcement about a new gas generation strategy and the support given in the budget to the industry are all signs that UK sourced hydrocarbons are going to play an increasingly important role in the future energy mix of the country.”
Planning officer Rod Brookfield of Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) recently gave a presentation to Ince Park Community Forum. He said if the Cheshire well began operating it would extend two-three kilometres deep, minimising possible seismic and water contamination issues.
A Cheshire West and Chester Council spokesman said: “IGas has notified us of a discovery of shale gas at the Ince site where it has planning permission for the extraction of coal bed methane.
“The company does not currently develop gas reserves from shale rock or practice shale fracking. IGas has informed us that there is no intention at this stage to extract shale gas at Ince.
“Should this position change, the company would be required to submit a separate, full planning application to the council.”
Another company Greenpark Energy believes there is a ‘high potential’ for developing coal bed methane in the Chester area and over the border into Sealand and Bretton.
Last year the firm erected a drilling rig on Lesters Lane near Bretton to drill a borehole for the purposes of coal bed methane appraisal and production.