Thursday, 8 May 2014

EA Permits granted - testing for fracking to commence

The Environment Agency has now granted the Mining Waste Permits for Rathlin to conduct testing at their two wells in East Yorkshire, including a minifrac on the Bowland Shale (mini fall off test).

West Newton Permit and Decision Document
Crawberry Hill Permit and Decision Document

In breach of Planning

The Permit describes a 'mini fall off test', aka a mini-frac, which involves injecting liquid in to shale rock "pressured up to the point where the rock would begin to fracture".

This test is therefore in breach of Crawberry Hill Planning Condition 15- no fracking.

Rathlin admit they plan to inject liquid at pressure into the shale rock.  However, they claim it is not fracking because they are not injecting sand to hold the fractures open.

Testing for fracking

Rathlin are clearly testing for possible fracking in future, and even state this in the EA Permit Application (see highlighted extract below).

Yet Rathlin have repeatedly and categorically stated they are not planning to frack.
But all they mean by this is no immediate plans to frack, or no plans to frack these wells, or not by them.

Despite claiming to only be interested in conventional reserves they drilled way deeper, right down to the Bowland shale formation.  They will have taken samples of shale rock when they drilled the wells, and tested the samples in the lab.  We can assume the tests were promising as they plan to return to site to conduct a minifrac test on the shale rock in May 2014.

Gas can only be extracted from shale by fracking.

Rathlin have stated that they plan to abandon the bottom section of the well after the mini fall off test and that these wells are not capable of fracking.  They are suitable for conventional extraction.

They admit that if the conventional reserves are not commercially viable, but the shale gas is, then they would consider exploiting it.

High volume fracking would require new planning permission.

Extract from EA Permit Applicaiton Mini Fall-Off Test within Upper Visean/Lower Namurian
A mini fall-off test is a short duration formation test designed to gather reservoir engineering data (characteristics and properties of the reservoir rock formation). The test is carried out to establish the pressure at which injection of fluid occurs into the formation and analyses how the pressure permeates through the formation over a given period of time (usually 14 days). For clarity, the intention of the mini fall-off test is not to fracture the formation but to establish if and at what pressure the formation becomes permeable. The information gathered during the mini fall-off test will help determine whether the formation is capable of being hydraulically fractured. Hydraulic fracturing is not being considered as part of the application which this plan supports.

from: EA Permit Application,  03 EPRA - Crawberry Hill - Non Technical Summary, p12

Rathlin's Description

9. Does Rathlin accept that the mini fall-off test is also known in the industry as a “mini frac”?
This test is referred to by a number of different names/acronyms. Rathlin is simply testing the formation integrity. ‘Frac’ or ‘mini-frac’ are terms that appear to be used interchangeably by some organisations without clear definition. This is Rathlin’s description of the mini fall off test: The well will be pressured up to the point where the rock would begin to fracture and then will be shut in to monitor the pressure fall off. No hydrocarbons or other formation fluids be will recovered during this test. Once the test has been completed the zone will be plugged and abandoned.
from Rathlin's Official Statement

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