IGas chooses Ellesmere Port for new test site

ENERGY firm IGas, a key player in the UK’s nascent fracking industry, has earmarked land in Ellesmere Port for its next drill site.

Late last year the firm’s exploratory site in Barton Moss, Salford, became a focal point for anti-fracking protestors who established a camp and disrupted the delivery of supplies.

Since then the protestors’ attention has shifted to Davyhulme, near the Trafford Centre, where the company is seeking to extend an earlier planning permission to extract coal bed methane.

Environmentalists claim fracking, which involves pumping water and chemicals deep under ground at high pressure, can pollute water supplies and the atmosphere. But the industry, and the Government, argues the gas is essential for the UK’s energy security and could drive a massive new industry.

While the results from Barton are still being tested, IGas is preparing to carry out exploratory drilling in Ellesmere Port where it has an existing permission. The planning consent does not allow it to frack.

It has not disclosed the location, fearing protestors will camp out at the site before work begins. IGas is holding a public consultation about the work at the Holiday Inn, Lower Mersey Street, Ellesmere Port on July 10 from 3pm-8pm.

In a leaflet promoting the event it said: “Drilling exploratory wells at a number of locations across this licence area will enable us to understand the extent of natural gas beneath our feet and whether it is recoverable.

“Onshore drilling is highly regulated, uses prove technology and practices and can unlock a precious energy resource to heat our homes and businesses.”

The London-firm is now the biggest shale gas player by licence size after agreeing a £117m takeover of Dart Energy in May. The group has shale gas licences across the North West, mainly at sites along the Manchester Ship Canal to the Mersey Estuary, and Dart is exploring sites in Cheshire at Upton Heath and Farndon.

This week the British Geological Survey and the Environment Agency published maps which show that almost half the area of England and Wales where major drinking water aquifers are located have shale gas deposits below them, particularly in IGas’s area around the Manchester Ship Canal and River Mersey.
However, the maps also suggest that the vertical distance between the water and the gas is sometimes several kilometres, making water pollution very unlikely.