Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Fracking In Areas With A History of Coal Mining

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There are a large number of "Petroleum Exploration and Developent Licenses" which the Government has agreed with firms as the first stage of the development of fracking operations -  click here for the agreement in my own area which the Government have made with INEOS Upstream Limited.  INEOS hold a series of such agreements across wide areas of the East Midlands.

From the indications given by a platform speaker at a meeting I recently attended at Shirebrook in North Derbyshire, the firm INEOS will be applying at five sites in the East Midlands (soon after the New Year) to start its explorations for shale gas and oil. But this might just be the tip of the iceberg for such surveys do not normally need planning permissions when the above "Petroleum Exploration and Developent Licenses" are in operation - unless the work is due to last more than 28 days or it effects European-designated wildlife sites as in the Peak District.

Initially INEOS will engage in vertical core drilling.  This is, however,  just an opening which will lead on to underground horizontal drilling which uses seismic fracking techniques - this is what might take more than 28days. These are done to discover and then exploit shale gas and/or oil deposits. It was stated by INEOS that the horizontal techniques could be run for numbers of kilometres from their starting points. That enables vertical operations which might take place initially in farmers' fields to then take place under many people's homes, children's schools, public buildings, roads and the like. For it was in such areas (often built for coal miners) that coal getting took place in the past.

The Coal Authority have an important web-site which shows the extent of the differing types of mining operations which took place in North Derbyshire (and many other areas) in the past. This can be found by clicking here .  If this link does not work then you can google into "Interactive Map Viewer Coal Authority" to find the connection. But note that the Coal Authority hold the copyright on this material, so maps can't be reproduced for publication without their permission.

You will need to keep double clicking onto the general map on the above Coal Authority site, until you reach the best specific map for the area you wish to examine . Even then you can go a stage too far and will have to return to the start of the exercise. Once successfully established you can then, however, scrawl around to many other areas - anywhere in the country.

Note the tick-box headed "Planning" in the top right hand corner of the maps. The "Change Theme" section which can be found in the top right hand corner is well worth clicking into. A key item to tick is "Mine Entry". This will produce a series of red crosses indicating differing forms of mine shafts. These cover small "bell pits" (where a shaft was dug directly into a shallow coal seam and coal was extracted in something of a bell shape), up to major pit entry and exit shafts. Hence Dronfield where I live had coal near the surface in the past and still has in certain places. From the Coal Authority's discoveries we find over 230 red crosses - for a variety of differing forms of  operations. Yet Shirebrook shows only two red crosses, but these are for a major deep mine entry and an exit from its major pit, which had extensive underground operations. Then there are sets of brown crosses on the maps shown for adits (digging into hill sides for coal) - over 50 of these in Dronfield and just the one at Shirebrook. Much of Shirebrook will itself, of course, be built above its worked out major coal seam.   

An area with massive numbers of red and brown crosses is Chesterfield. They crop up all over the place in its wide Borough Council area, except for the old town centre. This does not mean that the old town centre has no coal seams near its surface. It is just that this area had already been built upon before such early forms of shafts were put into operation.  Digging close under the surface of town's famous Crooked Spire would never have be on, but this does not mean that its Parish Church does not still rest upon shallow unworked coal seams. Nor that INEOS will not find that it is a good underground place for its shale gas extraction.

The North East Derbyshire District Council area laps around the Chesterfield Borough Council in a C shape.  The combined area of the two authorities is covered in masses of red and brown crosses. On a crude count, there are probably more than a thousand of these in each authorities areas. Chesterfield being a more compact area. Where these crosses actually appear (and their quantities) will surprise many people.

Some might like to search for the red and brown crosses which are the closest to their homes, their work places, childrens' schools and the like - which seismic fracking (low-level earthquakes) could endanger. There was, for instance, an earthquake at Market Rasen at 00.55am on 27 February 2008 which led to 83 reports on its impacts being submitted from people in Chesterfield alone. See this link. The question also arises as to whether INEOS's (hopefully low-level) seismic activities could trigger anything similar ?

The Coal Authority also supplies a series of maps showing (a) coal mining risk areas, (b) the legacy of coal mining and (c) surface coal resources plans. The areas you may wish to examine can be found by clicking here.

There are many problems which arise from fracking operations which go beyond coal concerns. But coal related matters should be at the top of our list. They form the basis for the interests of firms such as INEOS.