Notice: Planning Extension Applied For – Public Consultation Now Open
West Newton A well site in East Yorkshire is the location of a deep well for petroleum exploration and testing.
This wellsite experienced serious problems during testing in summer 2014.
As Rathlin Energy were carrying out a mini-frac test, on 12th August, there was an incident that resulted in an emergency well shutdown. There is strong evidence that the mini-frac went wrong and damaged the well. There were ongoing gas leaks and noxious smells, and 2 of the 3 tests that were planned (including the mini-frac) were abandoned. There were 19 breaches of permit recorded by the EA, who are currently taking Enforcement Action against them, and an investigation by the HSE, which is why they were unable to move on to testing at Crawberry Hill. The lower sections of the well had to be plugged and abandoned.
Rathlin Energy had hoped to commercially produce from this well, but in September 2014 said the Well had been mothballed. They denied the the mini-frac took place, saying they decided not to carry out the test because it was not needed. Video evidence later emerged of their Field Manager, on site at the start of August, confirming a mini-frac was currently under way.
Rathlin Energy then announced plans for a new well just a few fields away – West Newton B.
They still have permission to drill a second well at West Newton A, so they could go back and try again.
West Newton well is a 3,250m deep, vertical well, right down to the Bowland Shale. It is 66cm wide at the top, getting narrower in stages, to just 12cm (4 1/2″) at the bottom.
The site is on a farm owned by the Caley family, Norman Caley Ltd. Rathlin Energy (UK) Ltd have a lease which includes the right to lease the land for up to 50 years.
West Newton well site is North East of Hull, halfway to the coast, near Withernwick.
Pipers Lane / Fosham Road
OS map reference TA 19268,39131
Burton Constable Hall is on the road from Sproatley to New Ellerby.
Head north on this road with the hall on your left, and take the 2nd right down a dead end road, signposted “High Fosham” just before you reach Marton.
The well site is down there on the right.
Planning Permission for testing was submitted in Oct 2012, and Approved in Jan 2013.
The full application, comments & associated documents can be viewed here:
Sept 2015 Planning Variation for another 3 years 15/03056/STVAR
Planning Officer’s report. Taken from the Agenda here for 26th Nov 2015.
Nov 2015: 3 year extension granted unanimously. A “no fracking” planning condition was added. (See below.)
Sept 2018 Planning Variation for another 3 years 18/02924/CM
Standard Consultation Expiry Date Tue 02 Oct 2018
No ‘Fracking’ Condition
Condition 17 of the Planing Permission (2015 Variation of Conditions) states:
“Hydraulic Fracturing is not permitted
… as defined by the Infrastructure Act 2015 and means the hydraulic fracturing of shale … which involves … the injection of more than 1,000 cubic metres of fluid at each stage, or expected stage, … or more than 10,000 cubic metres in total.”
It is important to note that this only prevents very large High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing. Most fracking worldwide would not meet that definition, and therefore according to this government re-definition, is not fracking.
Therefore even with this condition, most fracking is still permitted.
e.g. The 2011 fracking of the Preese Hall well near Blackpool by Cuadrilla (that caused earthquakes), is no longer fracking. Although at the time, the government said it was.
e.g. The mini-frack that went wrong here at West Newton A in 2014. So Rathlin Energy could drill a second well, and try again.
Other loopholes could include some stages being less than a 1,000m3 (even if some other stages were more), or fracking in formations other than shale, such as tight sandstones at shallower depths.
Environment Agency Permits
EA Permit Application
Front Cover and Contents
02 EPRA – West Newton – B9 Application Form
03 EPRA – West Newton – Non Technical Summary
04 EPRA – West Newton – Site Plans
05 EPRA – West Newton – Waste Management Plan
06 EPRA – West Newton – Site Condition Report
07 EPRA – West Newton – Environmental Risk Assessment
09 EPRA – West Newton – Planning Decision Notice
Final EA objections to Rathlin West Newton Site 4 March 2014
EA Permits Issued – May 2014
Site Visits & Reports
Despite numerous incidents and apparent breaches of planning conditions and Rathlin Energy’s total lack of experience, regulators rarely visited the well sites, until things went wrong in mid August. All site visits are listed below (we know this from a Freedom of Information request), along with any reports to which we have access. Please let us know if you become aware of any additional visits not listed.
East Riding of Yorkshire Council Site Visits
No site visits since planning permission granted.
Additional information from ERYC:
Site visits took place to both sites by the Case Officer Mrs Shirley Ross when the planning applications were being processed by the Council. This is standard practice on all applications and allows the case officer to familiarise themselves with the proposed site and wider surroundings.
The officer has produced site notes and detailed Committee Reports when the planning applications at both Crawberry Hill and West Newton were being processed and these are available on line. No further monitoring reports have been produced by the officer.
Health & Safety Executive Site Visits
Environment Agency Site Visits
3rd June 2014
The following systems were lacking:
* Management Systems and Operating Procedures
* Accident and Emergency Incident Planning
“Very strong smell of gas/H2S”
Environmental Permit compliance inspection, and to carry out odour monitoring following a report received via the Environment Agency incident line.
Warning Issued. Must Implement odour management.
“extremely strong hydrocarbon type odour present on site”
This odour was later reported in this Guardian article.
EA also stated:
Following communication with the Environment Agency Rathlin Energy voluntarily suspended well testing operations at the West Newton Well Site.
Environmental Permit compliance inspection and odour monitoring. The inspection confirmed that no well testing was taking place on site. Odour management techniques were discussed with the site operator.
“hydrocarbon type odour was present on site”
EA also stated:
We have investigated the source of the odour and believe it to have been caused by the cold venting of low flows of natural gas via the enclosed flare stack. The operator has now made changes on site to ensure natural gas is only sent to the flare stack at pressures above the minimum flare operating pressure. The change means that the natural gas, and the odorous components within it, will be combusted. We expect these measures to reduce odour from the site.
The Environment Agency gave its agreement to re-commencement of well testing operations on 24/09/2014.
“The operator is carrying out vermin control on site using rodenticide in bait boxes and that is believed to be contributing to the numbers of small dead mammals found in the open section of containment ditch.”
Rathlin Energy denied this, see Incident page here.
EA are visiting site weekly. Reports to follow.
Notice for EA reports: Contains Environment Agency information © Environment Agency and database right.
West Newton “Community” Liaison Committee Minutes
2013 02 13 Rathlin Community Liaison Committee Meeting WN
2013 03 20 Rathlin Community Liaison Committee Meeting WN
2013 04 24 Rathlin Community Liaison Committee Meeting WN
2013 05 22 Rathlin Community Liaison Committee Meeting WN
2013 08 06 Rathlin Community Liaison Committee Meeting WN
2013 09 10 Rathlin Community Liaison Committee Meeting WN
2013 11 06 Rathlin Community Liaison Committee Meeting WN
2014 02 26 Rathlin Community Liaison Committee Meeting WN
2014 05 13 Rathlin Community Liaison Committee Meeting WN
2014 09 16 Rathlin Community Liaison Committee Meeting WN
2014 11 06 Rathlin Community Liaison Committee Meeting WN
2015 02 18 Rathlin Community Liaison Committee Meeting WN
2015 05 12 Rathlin Community Liaison Committee Meeting WN
2015 09 03 Rathlin Community Liaison Committee Meeting WN
2016 02 03 Rathlin Community Liaison Committee Meeting WN
2016 06 21 Rathlin Community Liaison Committee Meeting WN