Local resident Joe recounts his experience of over 15 years of community opposition to the gas storage proposals Over Wyre, and what he believes are the concerns that remain today.
C 1998 A gas fired power station is proposed for the old I.C.I site at Thornton by NPL, with storage possibilities for gas around the old salt workings on the other side of the river around Stalmine/Preesall.
C 2002 Texas energy company Canataxx proposes storing natural gas under the Wyre estuary in new, solution mined, caverns. Concern grew among the public as the proposed caverns would be constructed adjacent to, or among, I.C.I's old salt mines and bore holes. These concerns culminated in a public meeting at St Aidan's School, around August 2002, where Canataxx outlined their plan. Mumbled delivery often dismissive answers left more people leaving alarmed, rather than placated.
The consensus of concern by individuals and local organizations led to the formation of P.W.G: the Protect Wyre Group. From Fleetwood Civic Society, Fleetwood Hotel and Guesthouse Assoc, Protect Rural Wyre Group, Thornton Action Group and many other individuals gave their time and /or expertise.
Study of Canataxx's proposals revealed plans for storing 40 billion cu ft of gas at pressures 700-800 psi. (800psi is the tyre pressure of a Halifax heavy bomber in WW2.) The unlined caverns would hold the equivalent of 60 'gasometers,' usually seen at the edge of towns. It was proposed that the solution mined caverns would use an angled drilling technique previously untried in this sort of mining.
PWG started a publicity campaign, using leaflets for house windows and cars as well as mobilising a letter writing campaign that eventually sent approx 34,000 letters (c.12,000 on three occasions.) Each letter expressed individually voiced concerns about Canataxx's scheme, the main points briefly being :
SAFETY, due to insecure geology; ie the layered nature of the salt and presence of known fissures, (one of which runs under the village school,) the proximity of old mine workings and boreholes; contaminants e.g 50,000 tonnes of toxic mercury waste, dumped over 26 years, in historic workings by I.C.I. Dangers of extra traffic at construction and terrorist threat were concerns. Many also recalled the explosion at Abbeystead, where nothing more dangerous than water was being moved.
ENVIRONMENTAL damage, the proposal sits on a SSSI, loss of amenity due to footpath closure and loss of Rights of Way. This in an area well used by walkers, birders, dog walkers, shooters, locals and casual tourists.
NO PROVEN NEED for the facility.
Canataxx's ANONIMITY, therefore lack of accountability.
PWG also collected and evaluated information, before passing it on to the public, often via the 'Green Book' and dealt with the technical and legal side.
By January 2004, Lancashire County Council (LCC) were considering Canataxx's application. A Hazardous Substances Consent was also being considered from Canataxx.
During 2004, LCC refuse the application. The company appealed and by Nov 2004, LCC are notifying the public that Canataxx's appeal will be heard by Public Inquiry. The firm seemed to attempt to muddy the waters of the appeal by lodging a second application with LCC and by late submission of documents to the opening of the Inquiry.
26th Nov 2004. Canataxx refuse to attend public meetings, stated in a reply to Hilton Dawson, M.P. (Mr Dawson had queried the need for the second proposal.)
3rd Dec 2004 Hazardous Substance Consent refused by LCC.
10th Dec 2004. Hilton Dawson states : “I deplore this proposal....(which)...my constituents regard as dangerous and utterly inappropriate.”
Jan 2005. LCC “...disappointed with some of Canataxx's responses.” (By letter to Hilton Dawson, M.P)
16th July 2005. Public Inquiry starts at Marine Hall, for both Canataxx's applications. Further Inquiry dates are announced for October, November, December and January, at North Euston Hotel. All dates are well attended by the public. Inquiry findings expected by 19th October 2007. The Inquiry heard representation from all walks of life, bolstered by the technical expertise of many specific scientific fields. Ben Wallace MP added his objection with knowledge of the North Sea gas fields. The protest movement has always had the support of our MPs, regardless of political party.
24th June 2008. Canataxx mail drop letters to households.
PUBLIC INQUIRY FINDS AGAINST CANATAXX
Canataxx challenge the decision on technicalities. LCC have to reconsider points and ask for public input. By March 2009, yet more letters of protest go out, the total now around 35,000. This is a typical letter. LCC apologises for the delay in replying to submissions “....due to the large number of representations.”
27th Jan 2010. LCC Development Control Committee REFUSES PERMISSION for the gas storage at a special meeting.
Meanwhile the company changed its name to Halite.
Around this time a blow-out occurred on Back Lane. An old brine well was being pressure tested. The valve had corroded shut and brine was forced under pressure around the outside of the pipework, solution excavating a depression approx 3ft deep and 100ft across. The toxic run off then killed 100 yards of established hawthorn hedge. Radio Lancashire reported this as a “...water burst..” They reported the facts inaccurately, though whether through bad journalism or through being in receipt of incorrect information, is not known.
On 17th July 2015, the scheme was passed on review. The Secretary of State for the then Department of Energy and Climate Change was Amber Rudd. Her brother worked for Finsbury and they lobbied on behalf of Halite, so Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth gave the final go ahead.
PWG, having done everything it could to achieve it's purpose of defeating the gas storage proposals through the planning process, disbanded, their hard work and public commitment, along with the involvement of a whole community, going to waste through what many in the community believe to be political corruption.
Although PWG may have gone, protests against the gas storage have not and our current campaign still has the aim of preventing this “...dangerous and inappropriate” scheme. With the dubiously achieved decision of Lord Bourne to give a Development Consent Order, we have now to argue on different fronts for success. Before outlining the immediate threats from the proposal, it's as well to consider other more distant events that have weighed on the concerns of the community.
HUTCHINSON, KANSAS. U.S.A.
Early on in the campaign, research by PWG unearthed a worrying incident at Hutchinson, U.S.A. Gas had migrated from a storage facility in domed salt for several miles to build up and explode in a retail warehouse in the town. The gas had migrated along natural fissures in the rock and built up in the basement over a weekend. Because of this Kansas state law does not allow underground gas storage within “...3 miles of a population centre..” or “...5 miles from mines, active or dormant.” There are approx 150,000 people living within 5 miles of the proposed Preesall storage caverns;- this in layered salt, not the domed salt used for gas storage elsewhere.
PORTAS RANCH, L.A. USA
Gas here was stored in sandstone, not salt but escaped through poorly maintained valves, which corroded to allow gas to seep out. At its worst, aircraft flying into l.A's international airport were diverted around the area of potential danger, houses were evacuated and pets began to have fits and vomit.
Locally, methane gas ignited to cause the explosion at Abbeystead and its subsequent injury and loss of life. Although not caused by deliberately stored gas, residents of Wyre will remember this for a long time yet.
CURRENT PLANS, inherited by NPL from Halite.
Halite sold their operation to NPL in November 2018, despite Halite owing massive debt, the project described as not cost effective, (by Halite at January meeting, 2018) and not needed by the (Conservative) government's own advisers.
Current plans are for 19 caverns to store 130,000,000 cu m of gas. (cf Canataxx's original plans for 40 billion cu ft) Plans are for angled drilling into the layered salt of the area. Neither angled drilling, nor storage in layered sat has been tried before. The overburden of 300ft is flimsy compared to the overburden of two or more miles in domed salt. (E.g Germany.)Several caverns are large enough to contain Blackpol Tower, with room to spare, the largest could contain the Eiffel Tower. This largest cavern would lie within 100m of the boundary with Hackensall Hall and is the nearest to the village of Knott End - a cul-de-sac. No safety or evacuation plans have been mooted for any area, by any of the three companies involved or who have been involved in this project previously.
Access for construction vehicles and workers will be off Hallgate Lane and normal construction will allow 62 heavy wagons per day :- 31 journeys each way on already overcrowded and poorly maintained roads.
THE CONSTRUCTION AND TOXIC BRINE
The caverns are planned to be solution mined. This involves forcing water under pressure into the ground, dissolving the salt and the resulting waste brine pumped to the surface for disposal. 'Disposal' here means dumping as toxic effluent into the Irish Sea.
If allowed, this effluent, at 8 times the salinity of ambient sea water, will be discarded into the sea at Rossall at up to 19,000 tonnes per day (Circa 28 Olympic sized swimming pools) for at least 6 years.
Locals with knowledge of the area – commercial fishermen and boat anglers – are concerned the computer models used for brine dispersal do not tell the whole story. There appears to be no in-house expertise within Halite (now under NPL's umbrella) for marine discharge. With these quantities of brine a miscalculation, accident or mistake could damage the marine habitat irrevocably. 'Brinewatch' is the protest group with detailed information on this toxic effluent discharge.
At a public meeting of 19/1/2018 Halite said they would adhere to the conditions in the Development Consent Order as that what they had to do legally, and that if the local community wasn't happy with those standards they should take it up with the authorities who approved the project to go ahead.
This project will bring no community benefits long term, construction jobs will be of minimum local benefit and noise concerns have not been assuaged. To quote from Canataxx “This is a purely commercial development.” Time has moved on, but the attitude of callous, remote and unaccountable business ventures has not.
Joe, local resident, Knott End.
We’re coming to the end of another year. Nearly three and a half years since Halite got permission for underground gas storage in Preesall with the development consent order and around 16 years since the project was first mooted.
Halite (now owned by Cheshire Energy/ NPL) have been busy submitting plans and documentation to Wyre Council to be signed off so works can begin with the access road in the Spring. The brine outfall pipe and discharge monitoring remain a major concern for all parties, including Halite - albeit for different reasons. The noise limits set for drilling under the estuary are also a problem for Halite to overcome. If we get to the stage of building the brine outfall pipe then we only have to look at Anchorsholme to see how difficult that will be and the construction window is very short. Meanwhile unstable land around Preesall could potentially sink plans literally.
As the land and consents for pipelines are presumably of value in themselves, time and money could be our best friends next year. How much are investors willing to spend on a project and how profitable will it be in the end? There is a reason so many gas storage projects with permission have not come to fruition.
So, whilst we are not ending the year with a party, there is still many a slip twixt cup and lip.
Cheers and best wishes for a hopefully gas storage free New Year,
Original version posted on facebook see No Gas Storage facebook page. 💚
Happy Valentine's Day! One thing that unites us all is our love for our community, whether it be coastal, agricultural, rural or town. We are all deeply worried about the impact of Halite Energy's huge infrastructure project on where we live and our daily lives. Unfortunately much of the fine detail is still missing and we don't seem to be able to get a fixed timetable for most of the development, when and if construction will start.
Meeting with Halite
On Friday 19th January 2018, four representatives from Halite Energy attended a No Gas Storage community meeting held at Knott End Golf Club. It was a lively and passionate debate attended by approximately 150 people from our communities and affected groups. Keith Budinger, Chief Executive gave a brief presentation, confirming the company is due to begin the construction of a new road from the A588 to ‘the marsh’ in early 2018. He indicated that the provision of gas in the UK was the biggest driver for the project. This was questioned given that the government recently published a paper stating gas security was not an issue in the UK. Numerous concerns were raised by the community including the ability of the road infrastructure to handle the construction traffic, subsidence, house prices, flooding, safety, the proximity to fracking sites and nuclear power plants, and the impact on livelihoods. There were also many questions on the daily discharge of 19,000 tonnes of salt into shallow waters off Rossall Point. You can read our notes here.
Halite is now beginning to send documents to Wyre Council - the relevant authority for many of the requirements in the Development Consent Order. If you look at the Wyre Council website and search for HALDIS you will find the documents that have been submitted to date including on temporary fencing, construction worker traffic, dust, light and decommissioning.
As the rain continues and Halite confirm that they will go ahead with the metal access road in Preesall as the first part of the development, our thoughts have turned to flood risk, particularly surface water run off and drainage. Many members of our communities are concerned that the development will negatively impact on flood risks to their homes as dykes and watercourses already struggle to cope. We will be discussing this issue along with those of traffic, noise and safety at our meeting on March 2nd. As preparation we have put together a short note with all the information on flood risk in one place. We'll be looking at the other areas too.
Our Next Meeting
It’s vital that we have the views and expertise of our local communities, so please come to the meeting on 2nd March (see above). We'll also be in the Knott End library between 10.30 and 11.30 on 16th March for anyone who doesn't get on-line, can't get to evening meetings or who would like to read some of the more recent documents.
In the media
Our politicians and representatives have been busy on this issue with Councillors Lorraine Beavers and Rob Fail calling for a rethink of Halite's plans. MP Paul Maynard shared his concerns on facebook including how he has written to Natural England following the extension of the Liverpool Bay special protection area. MP Cat Smith has featured her concerns regularly in columns in the Fleetwood Weekly and asked a follow-up question in parliament. Look out for us on Lancashire TV next week!
WE NEED YOU!
We are a small, but passionate group and we’re looking for volunteers. It’s vital that we work together as a community and so we need your help – whether it’s keeping us informed about Halite’s progress, telling us if you’re aware of anything that’s due to happen with regard to the gas storage project, or by helping us monitor Halite’s actions. If you can help, or have any relevant information to share, please get in touch.
Petition, petition, petition
Finally, don't forget to sign and share our petition on the brine outfall into the sea at Rossall. We have over 2,600 signatures already but would like at least 10,000.
Hope to see you soon,
Claire and Philippa
Originally sent out as an email in February 2018.
A lot has happened since Halite announced its plans to start construction in October 2017.
Halite has restarted its community liaison panel (CLP). There was one meeting of the CLP and one technical update. Notes and/or slides from these meetings are available on Halite's website. We are now members of the panel and are happy to ask questions on behalf of individuals or groups and report back on answers given at meetings.
We have held three community meetings ourselves and our fourth meeting is on Friday 19th January 2018 at 7.30pm at the Knott End Golf Club. We hope that Halite representatives will be there to answer our questions. We also ran a 'Hike Against Halite' on New Year's Eve. Thanks to everyone who came.
There has been a big focus on the brine outfall into the sea at Rossall and what this means for marine life and local communities. You can read all about concerns from local community experts here. Regulators have also had concerns. The Marine Management Organisation has asked questions on the timing of benthic surveys (see the public records on their database) and the NW Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority has asked questions on the marine monitoring group due to be set up to monitor the methodology and implementation of the project. The construction of the brine outflow pipe is reported to be delayed for up to a year.
For those of us in Preesall and Knott End and the surrounding area, Halite are still saying that construction will start as planned in the first quarter of 2018. This must be with the access road off the A588 although as far as we are aware the new suggestions to reduce the speed limit on the A588 leading up to the new junction have not been approved. We hope to get more of a timetable from Halite Energy representatives at our meeting on Friday.
In other news the Liverpool Bay Special Protection Area for birds has been extended and the Lancashire Wildlife Trust has made a statement on the project.
Please don't hesitate to get in touch with information or questions.
All the best for the New Year,
Claire and all at No Gas Storage
(This blog was first sent out as a newsletter in January 2018)
Written by volunteers from the No Gas Storage Campaign. If you would like to write a blog - get in touch!