IGas fracking site at Ince Marshes in doubt

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Protos Peel Holdings

Artists impression of the Protos site at Ince Marshes in Cheshire. The proposed IGas site was in the bottom left corner to the west of the roundabout. Image: Peel Holdings

Plans by IGas to drill and frack for shale gas on Ince Marshes in Cheshire appear to have been shelved.

Two and a half years ago, the company announced it would be submitting Cheshire’s first fracking application.

A site was earmarked on the Peel Holdings’ Protos site, near Ellesmere Port.

But recently there were suggestions that fracking would not be allowed on the site. Today, Peel Holdings told DrillOrDrop.com:

“There are currently no plans to drill at any of the plots under the consented Protos development.

“The plot previously allocated to IGas is now being taken forward for another development which will form part of the Plastic Park planned at Protos.”

A member of the local campaign group, Frack Free Upton, described the news as “fantastic”:

“The CEO of IGas had previously appeared on regional television explaining that this site was going to be developed for 12 fracking wells.

“The site sits above several major geological faults and the wells would run underneath a very large glass bottling factory – imagine the impact on the factory with the earth tremors that would be generated!

“The site is also very close to the River Mersey site of special scientific interest bird sanctuary, so not great for nature either.

“Hopefully landowners are now realising that the fracking industry just brings major problems with it, sterilises the land for decades, and creates few jobs locally. All bad PR for the landowner who also inherits the maintenance of the wells for many decades into the future.”

“This is great news for the environment and the people of Cheshire, who do not want our beautiful county to be converted into a gas factory and suffer the ill health experienced in the USA just for someone else’s profit.”

DrillOrDrop invited IGas to respond to Peel Holdings’ comment. This article will be updated with any reply.

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The IGas site to the west of the roundabout. The large white building in the bottom corner is a glass factory. Image: Zoom Earth

The Protos development, formerly known as Ince Resource Recovery Park, is south of  the Manchester Ship Canal and the Mersey Estuary.

One of IGas’s predecessor companies drilled a well there in 2011 to explore for coalbed methane.

In October 2017, IGas began the planning process for a second well on the plot by submitting a scoping report to Cheshire West and Chester Council. The company said it proposed to drill vertically and then horizontally, followed potentially by fracking.

An IGas press release from the time said:

“We want to further test the various rock formations, including shale, for detailed information and to establish the quantity and quality of natural gas within the rocks.

“The proposed development would be for one new well, initially to be drilled vertically and then horizontally. We also intend to hydraulically fracture and flow test the target formation, to assess the flow potential of the well.”

The announcement sparked opposition and protest.

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IGas Ince Marshes-1 well site. Photo: Used with the owner’s consent

IGas accounts in March 2018 said the full planning application was expected in mid-2018. It said the cost of the work would be carried by another shale gas company, Ineos, which has a 50% stake in the project.

In August 2018, an IGas trading update said the Ince Marshes planning application was complete. But by then the company was challenging a decision by the Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWACC) to refuse planning permission for well testing at another site in Ellesmere Port.

The update said:

“We have taken the decision not to submit to Cheshire West and Chester Council until the outcome of the Ellesmere Port appeal is known.”

The company has maintained this position. Earlier this month, IGas told DrillOrDrop:

“No further activity in the PEDL licences that fall within the CWaCC Planning Committee will be undertaken until the outcome of the Ellesmere Port appeal is known.”

The Ellesmere Port appeal decision had been expected to be announced by the local government secretary on 8 April 2020.

But that day the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government said publication had been delayed. Last week, a ministry email to IGas said the decision was “not expected to be issued in the next couple of weeks”.

Earlier this month, IGas accounts reported that annual losses had more than doubled to over £50m, following write-offs of shale assets in Cheshire, Warrington and Greater Manchester.

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IGas site at Ellesmere Port, 21 January 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Frack Free Upton said:

“This site at Ince is one of 13 that IGas had planned in this area, which also includes the site at Ellesmere Port for which the Secretary of State recently decided not to determine the planning application that he called in last year.

“Hopefully IGas will realise that fracking is now dead in Cheshire, and return the remaining site in Ellesmere Port to assist the development of the small business park there. The site resembles a jail for the highest category criminals which provides a very poor image to the surrounding businesses.”

The proposed IGas site at Ince is in the licence area, PEDL190. In July 2019, the licence regulator, the Oil & Gas Authority gave IGas until December 2022 to drill a well in PEDL190. The company was also required to submit an area plan by June 2020. This was to include timings for new seismic acquisition and planning applications.

Protos development

The Protos development is described by Peel Holdings as a 54-acre site with full outline and part detailed consent for energy production, general manufacturing and distribution. Projects include energy from waste, resource recovery and biomass facilities. The site also incorporates Frodsham Windfarm.

In 2015, Peel Holdings published a summary of a report on proposals to create a supply hub for the Bowland shale.

It said there was a “major opportunity to create a shale gas supply hub” in the Ocean Gateway – an area stretching from the Port of Liverpool to Manchester.

A subsidiary company, Peel Gas & Oil, said it could offer “a unique package to the emerging unconventional onshore gas and oil sector”. Services cited included land and property, water supply, treatment and disposal, fully consented sites and site construction.

Peel Holdings Land and Property (UK) Limited still refers on its website to the shale gas sector and its opportunities. But at the time of writing access was blocked to the website peelgasandoil.co.uk

The most recent financial accounts for Peel L&P Gas and Oil Limited reported a financial loss for 2019 of £21,287.

This content was originally published here.

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