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Upton-by-Chester could be targeted for fracking after all

Campaigners celebrated when IGas abandoned test drill plan but their fight may not be over 
Upton British Legion hosted the 'Bye, Bye Igas Celebration Party' held by campaigners celebrating the energy firm pulling out of Upton and Mickle Trafford

An energy company boss has revealed that Upton is still on the potential target list for fracking even though campaigners recently celebrated IGas pulling out of an operation to test for coal bed methane (CBM).

Tom Pickering, operations director, Ineos Shale, indicated the Duttons Lane site may be revisited with a view to fracking for gas from the shale layer which lies deeper underground.

No surprise

This won’t come as a surprise to anti-fracking campaigners who were already aware Ineos would be targeting Cheshire having acquired licences for unconventional gas exploration/extraction in the county.

Related story: Fracking company pulls out of Chester sites in Upton and Mickle Trafford

And campaigning Upton Labour Cllr Matt Bryan predicted the shale layer may well be their sights.

Tom Pickering, operations director of Ineos Shale

Mr Pickering, who visited The Chronicle offices to introduce himself, said the Upton site was covered by a licence co-owned with IGas who remained as the potential operator.

He said: “That area is underlain by shale. That particular site – it was something IGas had been involved in before Ineos farmed into them late last year. That whole piece had been going on before we did that particular deal.”

Upton fracking site not ruled out

Asked if the Upton site might come back on the agenda in the search for shale gas, Mr Pickering responded: “Perfectly reasonable to assume that. Absolutely.”

Related story : Watch: Chester anti-frackers throw victory party

Ineos is a multinational chemicals company which employs 2,000 people in Cheshire and has considerable experience of fracking in the US. As an intensive consumer of gas, both as a raw material and fuel, the company is now looking to exploit shale gas where it is located near its UK plants to secure the future of the business.

A sign posted on the gate where the fracking camp was in place in Duttons Lane, Upton, for 21 months until it was cleared by High Court bailiffs supported by police.

Mr Pickering, who visited The Chronicle’s Chester office last week, added: “The reason for coming and doing this is, we are well used to having to come and present ourselves, having to be accountable in a local community, having to explain what we’re doing and so we want to make ourselves accessible to that.

Related story: Upton anti-frackers plead not guilty to eviction day charges

“We do think it’s important to our business and we’re not going to shy away from that but we believe it can be done safely.”

The next stage would be to carry out seismic testing in the search for shale but Mr Pickering was unable to clarify which communities would be involved at this point.

Shock announcement

It was in a shock announcement last month that IGas revealed it was abandoning exploratory test drill sites in Upton and Mickle Trafford as a result of seismic testing which showed the locations did ‘not meet its criteria for commercial CBM development’.

The announcement came just over three weeks after a protest camp at the proposed Upton site, established in April 2014, was cleared by High Court bailiffs supported by a £200,000 policing operation.

Related story : 'Outraged' Cheshire police boss aims to recover £200K costs from energy firm

Mr Pickering said he had no insight into the reasons for the puzzling turn of events.

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