This wellsite is live again – protests daily – please attend
May 2019: Well drilling in progress.
Unconventional testing is then possible; an acid squeeze is planned (E.A. Permit 01-126.96.36.199).
West Newton A well site in East Yorkshire is the location of a deep well for petroleum exploration and testing. A second well is being drilled.
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 took 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. Although planning permission was granted nothing ever happened there.
Struggling financially with £34m of debt, which Rathlin Energy’s auditors said “casts doubts” over their viability, they sold off parts of the licence to Reabold Resources, Union Jack Oil plc, and Humber Oil Ltd (report here). This raised funds to drill a second well (WNA-2) which commenced at the end of 2018.
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.
Note: The letter ‘A’ in ‘West Newton A’ refers to the wellsite.
Previously the site was simply West Newton, until nearby West Newton B wellsite was announced.
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, Approved in Jan 2013, extended in 2015, and extended again in 2018.
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.)
Nov 2018: 3 year extension granted, 6 in favour, 5 against. Meeting report here.
Councillors who spoke against: Andy Strangeway (Independent), Malcolm Boatman (Labour), John Whittle (Independent).
Councillors who spoke in support: Charlie Bayram, Bryan Pearson, David Rudd, Mike Stathers (all Conservative).
No ‘Fracking’ Condition
Condition 17 of the Planing Permission (2018 Variation of Conditions) states:
“Hydraulic Fracturing is not permitted
… as defined by the Infrastructure Act 2015 and means the hydraulic fracturing of shale … and 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.
Traffic Management Plan
As part of the Planning Permission, Rathlin Energy have agreed a Traffic Management Plan with East Riding of Yorkshire Council. This prescribes a route to the site and various other conditions to reduce the risk with large numbers of large vehicles moving in a rural area of narrow lanes, and to reduce the disruption for local residents.
Rathlin Energy breach the traffic management plan all the time. We’ve logged some of these breaches on the Incidents page.
Environment Agency Permits
E.A. Permit Application
Permit number: EPR/BB3001FT/A001
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
E.A. Permits Issued – May 2014
Permit number: EPR/BB3001FT
E.A. Permit Variation Application 2015
E.A. Permit Variation Application 2019
Permit Number: EPR/BB3001FT/V003
Public Consultation here until 11th Feb 2019.
About this consultation
01 NonTechnical Summary R0
02 Application Forms and Supporting Information
03 Site Location Plan and Site Layout Plan R0
04 Waste Management Plan R3
05 Site Condition Report R0
06 Environmental Risk Assessment R0
07 Chemical Inventory R0
08 Odour Management Plan R0
09 Gas Management Plan R0
10 Vapour Recovery Plan R0
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 2014. All site visits up to July 2014 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
6th August 2014
Two Well Operation Inspectors were on site 7.5 hours. No written report as everything was satisfactory.
[Later in 2014 there were numerous visits for an HSE investigation.]
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.”
Shortly after this Rathlin Energy strenuously denied poisoning local wildlife in their PR, saying, “this is completely untrue”. See Incident page here.
EA are visiting site weekly. Reports to follow.
The site visit report will be posted here when available.
West Newton “Community” Liaison Committee Minutes
Rathlin Energy hold periodic, private meetings with a few selected members of the local community who live close to their well sites. Rathlin Energy organise, chair, and minute the meetings. Even silent observers are refused entry. They then boast about the extent of their public engagement work.
This is the work of Rathlin Energy’s PR guy, Simon Taylor, MD of Mercury Communications, who boasts of, “Dealing with two of the country’s most difficult onshore planning applications, co-ordinating all communications and stakeholder communications“.
Simon Taylor has a murky past, regarding his rather too cosy relationship with East Riding of Yorkshire Council (who previously employed him, and then immediately, dubiously, and expensively contracted his company), and in particular Councillor Parnaby (leader of the council), as exposed in Private Eye, and briefly covered by the Yorkshire Post.
Rathlin Energy even removed all but the most recent minutes of the meetings from their website. Perhaps they lack the resources? Not to worry, we’re happy to host them on Rathlin Energy’s behalf. Here they are.
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
2017 12 06 Rathlin Community Liaison Committee Meeting WN
2018 11 21 Rathlin Community Liaison Committee Meeting WN – note: these minutes incorrectly state the meeting date as 2019,
2019 01 15 Rathlin Community Liaison Committee Meeting WN
2019 04 24 Rathlin Community Liaison Committee Meeting WN
Odour Management Plan – includes air sample results with VOC levels
The Main Drill Rig
In January 2019 a rig drilled the first section of well, the conductor.
In April 2019 another rig was delivered to site for the main drilling. It is believed to be BDF28, made from a cut up 1950s fire engine, a Green Goddess, now so unreliable they have to be moved by low loader. There are photos of it being delivered on the West Newton A Gallery.