AN MP spoke out against drilling plans which could lead to fracking in Harthill saying: “It would be a dangerous step in the dark.”
Sir Kevin Barron addressed the planning inquiry, which will decide if chemical company Ineos can bore a 2,800-metre exploratory well to test shale gas. The proposal could lead to future applications to frac the site, off Common Road, if the underground geology is found to be suitable. Sir Kevin, whose Rother Valley constituency includes Harthill, said: “There is a complete lack of research into fracking in ex-coalfield areas.
“I believe it would be a dangerous step into the dark to allow such an activity to be done without prior testing of the impact it would have on residents.
“No-one is clear who holds responsibility for any damage caused by the proposed well.
“I have written to the Government, the Coal Authority and the Oil and Gas Authority. All gave different answers, which clearly demonstrates the complete confusion around this area.
“We cannot allow any fracking to go ahead whilst these issues still exist.”
Sir Kevin raised a report by Prof Peter Styles, a former advisor to David Cameron who linked Cuadrilla’s fracking in Lancashire with earthquakes in 2011. The new report said fracking could carry increased risks where wells are drilled in areas previously mined for coal. David Gould, a geologist working with Ineos, told the inquiry this week that a recent 3D survey of the area - and 2D mapping from the 1980s - had not flagged any underground problems at Harthill.
He said: “We are content that there’s no major faulting that intersects the well.
“The 3D provides a lot more detail in terms of interpreting the geology.
“At the site, we can’t see any evidence of major faulting in either the 2D or 3D in the immediate area.
“In fact, in the whole of the area covered in 3D, faulting is surprisingly absent from that. It’s a large survey, several kilometres squared.”
The tests permitted under Ineos’ current application would not include fracking, which involves breaking underground rock and injecting fluid. The firm would carry out PTTs - pressure transient tests - which well operations consultant Andrew Sloan compared to inflating a balloon against the geology and measuring how it contracted. Two staff - one called a “mud-logger” - would monitor the earth being extracted during drilling he said, and no new equipment or techniques would be used. Mr Sloan said the process was the same as had been used to drill for water in the UK since the 1930s.
He added: “This is a simple and straightforward vertical well.”
The inquiry concluded on Wednesday and its findings are due to be released in the next few weeks.