"Extreme gas" project proposal gets heated response in Wells

A packed public meeting at Wells Town Hall on Tuesday night, gave a heated response to the proposals by UK Methane to carry out test drilling for Coalbed Methane in Somerset.

Over a hundred people came to hear about the proposals from the developers and protest groups in a balanced debate.  In the event, the developers represented by Mr. Gerwyn Williams of UK Methane pulled out just hours before the meeting started leaving the floor to the opposition.  The meeting was organized by the alliance of groups under the umbrella of Frack Free Somerset.

Coalbed Methane is one of a number of interrelated ‘extreme gas’ extraction technologies (including fracking for shale gas, and underground coal gasification). Coalbed Methane is a process for extracting gas from coal seams fairly close to the surface.

Somerset residents heard from speakers representing various opposition groups including Transition Keynsham, Frack Off, and Bristol Rising Tide.

Laura Corfield from Transition Keynsham detailed how UK Methane are about to submit a planning application to carry out test drilling in the Hicks Gate area of Keynsham to Bath and North East Somerset Council.

She said:  “All Somerset residents should be concerned about these proposals and it is vital that they now lodge their objections to UK Methane’s planning application.  If we don’t stop them now, we can expect drilling rigs all over Somerset, endangering our water supplies and local environment.”

Edward Lloyd-Davies from the national group ‘Frack Off’ related the multiple problems experienced in the US and Australia where coalbed methane has been going on for some years.  These include methane escapes, contamination of drinking water, huge quantities of produced water contaminated with toxic salts needing disposal and subsidence.  He produced estimates of the potential extent of drilling in Somerset based on information from UK Methane’s Australian parent company. This indicated up to 2100 drilling sites with extensive gas pipelines across the Somerset countryside.

A spokesperson from Rising Tide said: “It is no good this industry claiming that they will do it differently in the UK because we have tighter regulation.  The licensing regime for the ‘extreme gas’ in the UK is based on off-shore oil extraction.  Regulation falls between the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and local planning authorities and is totally uncoordinated.  Experience in Lancashire has shown one company operating outside its planning permission and in contravention of its planning conditions.”

Wells Town Councillor, Chris Briton chaired the meeting and heard local residents express strong concerns about pollution of drinking water and local rivers and environmental impacts on the Somerset countryside.

The audience was overwhelmingly opposed the UK Methane’s proposals.