Community representatives from Bishop Burton and Walkington met with Rathlin Energy UK on 20th May 2014 for a community liaison committee meeting.

In the meeting, Rathlin provided an update on activities and their future plans, and provided answers to questions arising from a meeting organised by the “anti-fracking” protestors. A police liaison officer was also present to give an update.

In summary:


  • The Environment Agency has issued Rathlin with two permits for the site covering the disposal of gas and fluids and the disposal of naturally occurring radioactive materials in water should they arise.
  • The permits require Rathlin to drill two new water monitoring boreholes. One will be directly upstream and the other directly downstream from the well. They will be drilled outside the perimeter bund in order to maintain the integrity of the drilling site.
  • The next rig on site will be a small one - to drill the water monitoring boreholes. These holes will be lined and capped securely. The water will be tested to obtain baseline water quality data before any further work on site.
  • Once borehole drilling starts the site it will be manned 24/7 by security.
  • Following this, a small rig (height approx.25m), a flare stack, separator and Portakabin accommodation for the staff will be brought on to the site.
  • The rock strata already identified as potentially oil or gas bearing will then be further tested to evaluate if there are commercial quantities extractable by conventional means.
  • Note: Throughout, no lorries will be permitted through the villages.
  • Once testing is complete the equipment will leave the site and the results evaluated.
  • Should commercial quantities be found any future work will be the subject of new planning, health, safety and environmental applications and detailed public consultation.

As many villagers are aware, there are a number of “anti-fracking” activists camping near the Crawberry Hill site on the Walkington Heads Road. A number of questions arose at their meeting in Walkington on 19th May:

Q - Have Rathlin broken their licence conditions by drilling deeper than permitted?
A - Rathlin completely refute this. They have drilled to 2,750m as permitted by their licence.

Q - Why does Rathlin in their EA application say they are fracking?
A - The application asks whether they are injecting aqueous liquid into the rock, the example given in the EA form is fracking. Yes they are injecting liquid (Salt water) but they are NOT FRACKING. They are conducting a mini fall-off test.

Q- Is this just semantics - Rathlin are Fracking the Bowland Shale?
A – No. Fracking fractures the rock, continues to pump fluid to propagate the fracture and then keeps the fracture open with sand. The fall-off test does NOT fracture the rock. It pressures the rock to the point where any natural fissures open. The well is then shut in and monitored to see how quickly the pressure reduces. This gives an indication of the amount of oil/gas reserve.

Q - Why do Rathlin care what is in the Bowland Shale if they are not going to frack?
A - Bowland Shale is recognised as both a source rock, potential reservoir rock and potential sealing rock. Rathlin’s test will provide information about all three of these characteristics. This is the “exploration” stage and Rathlin are looking to understand as much as possible about the oil and gas system in the basin.
Q - Rathlin are merely an exploratory company. They will sell the information to others
to frack won’t they?
A - Rathlin has the licence and has no intention to sell the licence. Their parent company (Connaught) has successfully operated a number of wells ABROAD without incidence (some hydraulically fractured). Thus they have the required expertise and would not sell the information to others. However, both Crawberry Hill and West Newton are CONVENTIONAL targets and have been drilled as such. If oil/gas is present it will be extracted conventionally using the company’s experience and expertise in conventionally extracting economically recoverable oil and gas. Crawberry Hill and West Newton are NOT fracking targets they are CONVENTIONAL OIL/

Q - Is it possible that the well casing may have failed since it has been out of use for a while?
A - The well has been left in a mothballed state, during this period regular monitoring of the wells has been conducted. Rathlin will conduct a programme of monitoring to ensure the integrity of the well before starting work.

Q - Isn’t it just a matter of time before the casing fails and the aquifer (water table) is
A - NO. The well has been constructed with the latest technology and when left for periods measures are taken to ensure that it does not deteriorate.  In respect of well failure rates in the UK, Rathlin directed us to the UKOOG site. Here it can be seen that a ReFINE and Durham University report just published highlights that there has been only been a couple of recorded well integrity failures out of 143 wells active in the UK since 2000. These failures were picked up through monitoring and remediated.

Q - Could radioactive water could end up in our rivers etc.?
A – NO. Rathlin is required by their permits to appropriately store and dispose of the water. They have an agreement in principal with a waste treatment plant licenced to treat such water. Any radioactive material, if it is present, is naturally occurring from the earth (Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material – NORM). No radioactive material is added to any products used in testing.


  • A number of protestors are camped next to the Crawberry Hill site.
  • They have a right to demonstrate peacefully.
  • We understand that they have done this peacefully at other sites in the country and thus trouble is not expected.
  • The protestors’ actions should not breach the rights of local residents.
  • Three Humberside Police liaison officers have been assigned to support and communicate with the company, villagers and the protestors. The protestors’ liaison officers are separate from the officer who has been nominated to work with the company and villagers so that there is a high degree of independence between the two.
  • If anyone has any concerns, please let one of your community representatives know so that they can discuss them with the police liaison officer. If the matter is something that you would ordinarily report to the police then please do so in the normal manner by ringing 101 or in an emergency 999.

N.B. The Rathlin management team has reiterated that it continues to encourage anyone with matters of concern to contact a member of the parish liaison committee. Your community representatives, if required, have swift access to key personnel at Rathlin. Further information can be found on the company website at: Fuller notes from all the meetings can be found in the ‘Yorkshire’ section.

David Oxtoby: 07889 730753 and Margaret Hebb: (01964) 551315.
Bishop Burton Community Representatives

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