Drilling could start sooner in search for 'green' energy


Sarah Staples

PLANS to drill exploratory boreholes in a village near Ellesmere could go ahead sooner than planned after it was revealed developers may not need an environmental assessment.
A screening proposal was submitted by Australian company Dart Energy last month to drill a temporary hydrocarbons exploratory borehole at Brooklands Farm in Dudleston Heath.
But environment officials now say an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) may be unnecessary.
Mark Davies, a planning specialist from the Environment Agency, said in a letter to Shropshire Council that based on the details already submitted, “we do not consider that the proposals are likely to result in ‘significant’ effects on the environment.
“Therefore we would suggest that an EIA would not be necessary in this instance.”
He added that if an EIA was considered necessary the Environment Agency would expect to be formally consulted.
Shropshire Wildlife Trust has “deep concerns” over the drilling plans in Dudleston Heath, claiming the extraction process could contaminate land and have “serious implications for water supplies.”
John Hughes, development manager at Shropshire Wildlife Trust, said going ahead with plans without carrying out an EIA “would be a very dangerous thing to do.”
“In general terms we would not be very supportive,” he said.
“There is an unknown quantity of damage it is likely to cause and in a broad sense, evidence suggests the work could cause minor earth moments, which could be damaging for Shropshire’s landscape.
Peter Reilly, spokesman for Dart Energy, said the company is undertaking “a simple extraction” through a four-week operation and would be on the site for around two months.
He said: “We are trying to find out what the gas content is of the coals. If it is high enough we will move to the next stage of the process.
“You have to distinguish between scaremongering and the facts of the process. This company has drilled many wells like this before and these apparent risks are not real,” he added.
Dart Energy plans to extract coal-bed methane by drilling into coal underground and pumping out water, drawing out trapped methane with it.
A decision from Shropshire Council planners regarding the environment assessment is due on April 23.

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