Digging deep for fuel sustainability

GAS drilling which has been going on in the North York Moors for nearly 50 years will begin again near the remote village of Westerdale.

It is part of a bid to find renewable energy sources despite a nearby project less than two miles away being abandoned in 2005 because the gas reserved weren’t in commercial quantities.

But the firm behind the plans, Egdon Resources UK Limited, believe there are strong gas reserves lying to the south of the village which is situated at the far end of the Esk Valley.

Planning permission was granted last week by the North York Moors National Park planning committee and works are expected to last 20 weeks.

The site is situated in a flat field at Broadgate Farm around three quarters of a mile from the village with access via public roads and a farm track which also serves as a public right of way.

Around five hundred wagon movements will be needed to establish the site and 40 metre high drilling rig which will be topped with a red warning light to warn aircraft.

Should no gas be found then the borehole will be capped and the site returned to farmland but Egdon are confident they will get results as previous tests in the area revealed significant quantities of gas.

The first tests took place in 1966 around two and a half miles south of Westerdale and discovered 49 billion cubic feet of gas.

There were significant gas flows during the day but the project had to be abandoned because of an increase in water production.

In September 2005 attempts were made to discover gas at a site known as Westerdale 1 which was three quarters of a mile north eastwards of Westerdale near Whyett Bank.

Although gas was discovered the reserved weren’t in commercial quantities so the project was abandoned and the site re-instated to its original form.

In planning documents Egdon said: “Notwithstanding the above, the findings of these previous exploratory phases in conjunction with more recent seismic data strongly indicates that the main reserve lies to the south of Westerdale 1.”

Although the Ramblers Association objected to the proposals because it wanted a temporary bridleway for walkers, the parish councillors of Westerdale backed the project after consulting with local residents who largely supported the scheme.

Such schemes are also being encouraged by national planning policy guidelines which state there is a need to extract native fossil fuels to secure energy supplies, local economies and address the scarcity of fuel.

However, plans for gas drilling elsewhere in the North York Moors National Park have led to a public inquiry and the Secretary of State being called in.

Moorland Energy Limited had applied for planning permission to test reserves at land at Ebbertson and Hurrell Lane, Thornton-le-Dale but rows broke out with the National Park over how long it was taking for the authority to come to a decision.

But a planning inspector and the Secretary of State gave Moorland the go-ahead despite a campaign by residents arguing that the development was of major importance having “more than local significance.”