Petrochemical chief says fracking would be a great opportunity for the Mansfield area

A drilling rig onsite for three months during a fracking operation.
A drilling rig onsite for three months during a fracking operation.

a company recently licensed to frack huge areas of Mansfield Ashfield and Worksop has reassured communities they will be fully consulted and share the rewards of any gas extracted.

Last week the Chad revealed licences to frack in the area had been granted to global petrochemical manufacturer INEOS.

INEOS operations director Tom Pickering has moved to counter the bad publicity surrounding the industry.

He said it was absolutely critical to explain at every stage of the process whether an area was suitable for extracting the gas and what was being done to protect the environment .

Fracking breaks apart gas-bearing rock formations deep underground by injecting it under pressure with a mixture of chemicals water and sand.

Opponents have blamed fracking for poisoning ground water and causing minor earthquakes.

There are also concerns about workings taking place near residential areas and resulting noise and traffic congestion.

Mr Pickering said: “We have been awarded licences which we have to take up from the Government by April.

“The first step is to make 2d and 3d seismic models using acoustic modelling to identify areas of shale.

“Over the next 12-18 months we will be taking seismic data. If the sites are suitable we will be putting in planning applications for vertical core wells.

“If it is promising we will submit applications to test production of gas.

Once we have demonstrated it can be done safely and economically we will we will begin our conversation with the community.

“We then drill down a vertical well to draw samples of shale to check for gas content, the pressures involved and learn about the physical characteristics of the rock and whether it is worth progressing to the next stage.

“There is a risk assessment of the geology to inform how we progress to the next step.”

He said geological samples already in existence suggested a horizontal well would be best suited to the Mansfield area.

Fracking takes place at a depth of 8,000ft using a six inch borehole.

He said: “In that well the real final piece of evidence is being able to produce commercial volumes from the shale.

”It is a really slow and steady progression of slowly but surely building up a picture.

“It is absolutely critical to explain at ever step what is happening - who we are an what the science is.

“When we are ready there will be a big programme of exhibitions in the community.”

Horror stories of gas coming out of water taps following fracking operations in the USA is one worry cited by objectors.

Mansfield MP Sir Alan Meale opposes fracking and one of his reasons is the potential pollution of the aquifer (water table) which supplies the whole area with water and stretches under much of the shale areas identified so far in the Bolsover area.

Tom Pickering said: “In terms of aquifers we have already identified these areas.

“When we put in an application we would protect it.

“There is a long experience of drilling water wells and oil wells in the UK.

“The aquifer sits from 0-1,000 ft deep and fracking takes place at 8,000 ft below the surface.

“Contamination of the water table when it happens doesn’t come from 7,000ft below it comes from passing through or drilling through or spillage at the surface.

“We will have demonstrated to Environment Agency how we will achieve the integrity of the bore hole.”

“No one can give a guarantee there are no risks.

“It is about working with communities, telling them what is being done, how it is being managed for those willing to hear the facts when they understand the facts in context.

When we address what is happening in the US and put things in perspective people are satisfied when we describe exactly this process of science and how we are managing it.”

Fracking in Lancashire was the ‘highly probable’ cause of earth tremors which hit Lancashire’s Fylde coast in 2011.

Mr Pickering said the industry had learned from the event.

He said: “There is a risk of a seismic event - we have seen one in Lancashire.

“There are natural faults underground and water under pressure can cause seismic events.

“It is now a legal requirement for areas to have a 3d seismic image made to identify where the faults are.

“It may be there are too many faults in this area to put down horizontal wells.

“It will be up to us to determine the safety case.”

He added: “For those who are anti, our message is that gas forms an enormous part of our daily lives, not just power to heat our houses and cook food,

“It is part of the building blocks for chemicals used in every day items we use.

“We have to decide if we can satisfy people it can be done safely and properly like the North Sea developments.

“Do we want to import it or keep the competitive advantage by having it in the UK?

“Gas burns cleaner than coal and there is security of supply for UK manufacturing.

“We will not be going into residential areas - we will be in fields where there will be less noise impact and traffic issues.”

INEOS will give 4 per cent of gross revenue from each well to the landowner above the area and two per cent to the wider surrounding community.

This could amount to millions over the 15-20 year lifespan of each fracking operation.