Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Fracking... in Dorset

An interesting article in the Telegraph recently:

The town where 'fracking' is already happening

Fracking might be causing mass protests in Middle England, but for the community living around one of the hundreds of wells already “fracked” in the UK, the locals hardly seem to notice.

Wytch Farm
BP's biggest onshore UK oil well at Wytch Farm, Poole Harbour. Photo: BNPS
Wytch Farm in Dorset is in the heart of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. But you would be forgiven for not knowing the largest oilfield in western Europe is even there. Nestled in a pine forest near a nature reserve and on islands off Poole Harbour, the oilfield owned by French company Perenco has been quietly producing thousands of barrels a day since the late 1970s. At one point the oilfield had the longest horizontal drill in the world and has regularly pumped water into wells to “fracture” the rock and force out oil and gas.
Academics say that this so-called “fracking” has been used on 200 wells across the UK over the last 20 years or so.
Now the controversial technology is making headlines around the world. In Balcombe, West Sussex, locals have staged weeks of protests, ending in more than 30 arrests.
In contrast, the local community around Wytch Farm are unaware the technology is being used and appear relaxed about the "discreet" operations happening in the heart of their community.
Tony and Kate Bryan, both retired, from Corfe Castle, the village two miles north of the oilfield, have been on one of the visits to Furzey Island to see the oil refinery in action. Mr Bryan said occasionally you see a drilling rig poking above the trees or a “nodding donkey” on the coast but most people do not know it is there. We have never had any seismic impact that we are aware of and you have to get your oil from somewhere. It is all very well saying not in my backyard but it has been very well done.”
Most of the tourists eating ice creams and wandering around the National Trust castle were unaware that “fracking” is going on around the corner.
It certainly does not seem to have affected property prices. In Poole, which looks out on the main offshore activities of Perenco, properties go for millions. Purbeck Property, the local estate agents, said the proximity of an oilfield has not had an adverse effect – yet.
Dean Watts of Purbeck Angling is Chairman of the Carp Angling Protection Society, but he said no fishermen have yet complained about leaks into the groundwater. He said there are footpaths, bridleways and even fishing ponds close to the main operations in Wytch Farm but it is still quite peaceful “you occasionally hear a whining noise but other than that you wouldn’t know it was there”, he added. “It is a necessary evil. As long as it not going to affect wildlife or anyone in an adverse way then I say live and let live.”
In Wareham, which is a few miles from Wytch Farm, the concern seems to be more about a proposed wind farm in East Stoke and a massive offshore development off the Jurassic Coast
Even Frack Free Dorset admit that Wytch Farm has not caused environmental problems so far. But they insist that the long term risk from fracking is a serious concern as drilling for oil and gas in the area massively expands and more “shale gas” is discovered.
Peter Style, Professor in Applied and Environmental Geophysics at Keele University, said that fracking first happened in the UK in Lincolnshire in 1988. He said fracking was mostly used in the UK to get the last out of old oil and gas wells. “It is not a new technology, we have had 200 wells fracked in England and no one has even noticed. You cannot get a nicer place than under Corfe Castle in Poole Bay but no one is phoning up the Government to complain.”
Since 1902 2,152 wells have been drilled in the UK. There are currently 250 to 300 oil and gas wells operating in the UK.
Perenco refused to give details of fracking at Wytch Farm but admitted that hydraulic fracturing happened at the oilfield after it was highlighted in a Royal Society report. “Well stimulation techniques, and produced water and seawater injection have been used at Wytch Farm for many years,” said a spokesman.
In the next few years, the UK is expecting the biggest acceleration of onshore oil and gas since the Second World War, with tax breaks already announced and 176 licences issued.
Environmentalists are concerned that the drive will push out renewables and risk pushing up carbon emissions. Richard Davies, Professor of Energy at Durham University, agreed fracking has been going on in the UK for decades. He said the risk is fracking for shale gas. “The oil industry is correct in saying they have been fracking for some time. What is new is the widespread deployment and possible fracking for shale gas.” Prof Davies explained that unlike fracking for conventional oil and gas, fracking for shale gas requires multiple wells and has only happened in Lancashire so far, where it caused a small earthquake.
Durham University has published peer-reviewed papers explaining that earthquakes and contamination of aquifers are unlikely with this sort of fracking. However he did say that it could cause the “industrialisation” of the countryside because of the number of wells and the traffic.
In northern England alone it will require “thousands” of wells to extract just ten per cent of the shale gas reserves, he said. “For me the fracking is not the problem, it is the number of wells and the traffic,” he added.
For the people of Balcombe it is not worth the risk. Louisa Delpy a resident campaigning to stop drilling in the area, said fracking has the potential to destroy the countryside. “Drilling could lead to full scale fracking with wells every couple of miles, huge water usage in a dry area, traffic and long term risks to the environment and water table. If they do it here in an area of outstanding natural beauty they can do it anywhere.”

The town where 'fracking' is already happening - Telegraph

Last month the drilling was extended:

Wytch Farm oil production extended in Dorset

Oil production is to be extended for a further 21 years at western Europe's biggest onshore oilfield, in Dorset.
Dorset County Council granted permission for Perenco UK Ltd to extend the operational life of Wytch Farm, in Poole Harbour, from 2016.
Wytch Farm currently produces 20,000 barrels per day. The remaining reserves are estimated to be 43m barrels.
Approval is subject to a number of conditions, including the prevention of fracking for shale gas.
The council's planning committee approved a total of 39 applications, including extensions at Wareham and Kimmeridge oilfields which are also operated by Perenco UK Limited.
Other conditions include the restoration of surrounding heathland.
'National significance'
The future development at the oilfields includes drilling new wells and maintaining existing ones.
Concerns raised over the extension of production at the sites included noise, air quality and vibrations.

According to the council's planning report the continued use of the oilfields until 2037 is of "national significance" because they represent about 1.5% of the remaining proven onshore and offshore UK oil reserves.
About 650 people are currently employed at the sites and it is believed extending production will secure between 440 and 760 jobs until October 2037, by which time all sites are expected to be decommissioned.
The estimated contribution to the UK economy of the three sites is £300m per year.
Although the fracking of shale gas has never been carried out at the sites, there were no restrictions under the existing planning permissions.
However, the report said an environmental statement stated there were no known shale gas or coal bed methane deposits in Perenco's licence blocks, and no plans for it to seek any.
Perenco UK Ltd has pledged £1.7m towards off-site work to compensate for "adverse impacts" of the development, including the retention and management of surrounding trees used to screen the sites.
BBC News - Wytch Farm oil production extended in Dorset

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