Drilling tests could lead to eight wells in East Riding to exploit gas

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AS many as eight wells could eventually be drilled to exploit gas found in the East Riding.

Canadian-owned Rathlin Energy (UK) is waiting to hear from the Environment Agency whether it can carry out further exploration work at two wells it drilled last year at Crawberry Hill, near Walkington, and West Newton, near Aldbrough.

Tom Selkirk, from the company, said the most important test they were going to carry out was on a layer called Kirkham Abbey, which is shallower than the Bowland shale “source rock” and which “may have commercial gas potential”.

He said in future there could be a total of up to eight wells between the two sites, adding: “You have a tremendous amount of oil and gas in the North Sea. This is part of the same basin. There is no reason why there might not be similar conventional reserves onshore as offshore.”

Environmentalists have accused the firm of preparing to “frack” – using high-pressure liquids to fracture the rock to allow more gas to flow out. But the company’s chairman David Montagu-Smith insisted “there was absolutely no suggestion” of that happening at either site.

Asked about claims by Greenpeace that it was using conventional wells as a “Trojan horse to creep into the area”, Mr Montagu-Smith said: “To accuse us of being sneaky and bamboozling locals is unfair given the lengths we have gone to to avoid that.”

The company will be doing a “mini fall-off test”, pumping around five to 10 cubic metres of salt water into the Bowland shale at increasing pressure until the rock begins to crack. But Mr Montagu-Smith said its purpose was “not to produce gas, but to test the characteristic of the rock”. Afterwards the “zone” will be plugged and abandoned.