Petrochemical prospecting company Coastal Oil & Gas Ltd recently submitted 3 applications to drill exploratory boreholes at Tilmanstone, Shepherdswell and Guston, three beautiful villages in East Kent. In 2011 KCC granted planning permission for a test bore at Woodnesborough nr Sandwich.
Why? … To look for coal bed methane (CBM) gas - and in addition, gas and oil from shale rock - all known as 'unconventional' gas and oil. If the applications are approved ….
There is only one site in the UK - Airth near Falkirk in Scotland a Explortory well like those proposed at Guston, Shepherdswell, Tilmanstone and Woodnesborough, has moved to the next stage of production:
Airth is the location of a number of exploratory coal bed methane wells and the first application for unconventional gas "production" in the UK. Dart Energy the operators of the sites are seeking to extend their planning permission and have applied for 14 new sites, 22 new wells and 20km of interconnecting pipelines. The pipelines will be used to transport produced water pumped out of coal seams into the Firth of Forth.
This is their story:
WHAT YOU SHOULD EXPECTWELLS
· Multiple wells for coal bed methane gas (potentially 100s in a single well field).
· 24 hour drilling, even during the exploration process.
· High levels of noise, and light pollution from floodlights.
· Wildlife banished (no birdsong at Balcombe since exploratory drilling began).
· Many heavy goods vehicles to and from the sites. Risk of spillage of toxic fluids. Local road damage.
· The risk of wells leaking. Around 50% of all wells develop leaks within 15 years, but coal bed methane wells can never be removed or recycled, and are usually left to decay, creating contamination.
· Flare stacks (20m high) emitting greenhouse gases and possibly toxic fumes.
· ‘Property blight’: you may find yourself trapped in a home you cannot sell, re-insure, re-mortgage or develop. Who wants to live near any of these sites?
· Even exploration carries a high risk of irreversibly contaminating the Chalk Aquifer, which supplies at least 70% of water to consumers in Kent.
· Coal bed methane may not ALWAYS need fracking to recover it, BUT coal seams are often fracked as gas flow declines, to maintain production.
· Continuous removal of water from coal seams depletes ground water and may lower farmers’ boreholes, streams and rivers.
· As the water table lowers (from continuous pumping of water) the earth can subside, damaging homes, roads and even wells themselves. De-watering wells raises the risk of underground fires that simply cannot be put out.
· Vast quantities of contaminated waste water and drilling muds (possibly containing toxic chemicals and cancer causing hydrocarbons) will have to be disposed of.
· Toxic drilling muds/waste can poison soil, water, farming land and livestock.
· Containment, treatment and disposal may require 24hr monitoring.