Energy firm in new bid to drill for onshore oil

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A CANADIAN-owned energy firm has launched a fresh bid to begin drilling for oil in the rural East Riding.

Rathlin Energy (UK) Ltd is seeking planning permission to begin exploratory drilling at High Fosham between Withernwick and Aldbrough in Holderness.

The company had planned to drill for oil or gas between Bishop Burton and Walkington after gaining planning permission earlier this year but was forced to look for a new site after failing to agree terms with the landowner.

The new proposal is to dig a temporary well on land west of High Fosham Cottage, and drilling would take place 24 hours a day down to a depth of two miles to where it is believed there is a petroleum reservoir.

A seismic survey was carried out at the site in January, which identified up to seven potential reservoirs between a depth of about a mile and two miles.

Ownership of petroleum resources belongs to the Crown, with exploration and production rights controlled by the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Rathlin Energy has been granted a licence giving the company exclusive rights over 241,000 acres, including much of the East Riding.

The only objections to the plans come from some residents and the nearby Garton Airfield, which claims the height of the tallest structure at the site, at 163ft, would “affect the safe and efficient operation of the aerodrome”.

Aldbrough Parish Council offered no comments during a period of consultation, and Burton Parish Council offered no objection, while Withernwick Parish Council recommended the scheme’s approval.

However, the latter two both sought guarantees that the controversial method of “fracking” would not be used.

A local farming business, however, which farms around 200 acres right up to the site, said it “strongly objects” to the scheme.

The farmers said: “We are shocked at the extent of the site and how much traffic there would be as this is not a suitable site down a little road.”

It said a proposed “controlled traffic flow” along the road next to the site was “unacceptable” as it was the only access the farm had to the land.

Other concerns raised included the “further industrialisation of a rural area”, following on from permission being granted for a wind farm, a gas storage facility and a biomass power station.

They feared the area would “lose its rural quality”.

Another said: “Many of the nearby villagers don’t seem to know about the proposal and what effect it will have on them, including the increase in traffic.”

In a report recommending the scheme’s approval, Alan Menzies, East Riding Council’s director of planning and economic regeneration, said: “The development is considered acceptable in landscape terms, subject to a temporary consent and full restoration of the site.

“The relative isolation of the site also reduces any potential impact on the visual amenities of the nearest properties, as well as minimising noise impact.

“The site lies in an area of groundwater protection, however, subject to a detailed condition to protect the integrity of the groundwater, this is considered acceptable.”

Setting out the case on behalf of the applicant, the report says the UK will remain “heavily dependent” on fossil fuels for a number of years, and notes the North Sea oil fields are gradually depleting, having “peaked” in 1999.

“It is imperative this supply is maintained and additional reserves of oil and gas are found,” the report said.

The plans are due to be considered by East Riding councillors on Thursday.

If permission is granted, the company intends to drill the well “as soon as possible”.

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