Gas extraction in Knowsley

A number of residents have contacted the council recently to ask if there are any plans for shale gas to be extracted – via ‘fracking’ or other methods – from beneath Knowsley.

Knowsley Council has agreed a motion opposing fracking and other unconventional gas extraction methods in our borough and surrounding areas.

However, the Government supports fracking and has issued licences for companies to explore the possible extraction of shale gas in different areas of the country, including Knowsley.

Companies wishing to carry out fracking would need to obtain planning permissions first and, at this stage, Knowsley Council has not received any planning applications for such activity to take place.

The information on this page should answer any questions you may have about the process around shale gas extraction and it will be updated as necessary.

What is fracking?

Fracking – or ‘hydraulic fracturing’ - is a method of recovering gas and/or oil from rock deep underground.  In Knowsley the rock is called Bowland shale.

It involves drilling a vertical well shaft deep underground and then drilling a horizontal well into the shale rock.  A mixture of water, sand and chemicals is then pumped at very high pressure into the rock to create tiny cracks. The sand holds the cracks open and, after the water and chemical mixture is removed, any shale gas (methane) can then be released and captured at the surface well-head.

Why is Knowsley Council opposed to fracking?

The council agreed a motion in September 2015 opposing fracking and other unconventional gas extraction methods in Knowsley and surrounding areas.

This position was adopted for the following reasons:

  • The council does not believe the processes have yet been proven to be safe;
  • It is not satisfied that the possible negative impacts on health and the environment have been fully addressed; and
  • The council does not consider there to be evidence of economic benefits of fracking.

At the meeting, Knowsley Council also called on the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and the other councils in the Liverpool City Region to pass similar motions opposing fracking.

What is the Government’s stance on fracking?

The Government is in favour of exploring the potential of shale gas, via methods such as fracking, and is responsible for regulating the onshore gas and oil industry.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has issued licences for companies to begin exploring sites across the country for shale gas. In 2015, the Government set up an Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) to oversee oil and gas licensing and development including shale.

Is Knowsley a potential fracking site?

There is shale rock approximately 1,000m beneath the borough of Knowsley which is potentially gas-bearing. The full potential of the area is not yet known.

An area in the north of the borough, near Tower Hill in Kirkby, is within one of the exploration blocks awarded by the Government in the recent licensing round.

Does this mean that fracking will definitely take place in Knowsley?

No. The award of these licences by the Government does not automatically mean that exploration or drilling for shale gas and/or oil can begin.

There are usually three principal stages in shale gas development – exploration, appraisal and testing and then production. At each of these stages, a number of planning and other regulatory approvals are required before operations can begin. 

Any company that wishes to carry out shale gas and/or oil development must apply for planning permission from Knowsley Council. Our Planning Committee will then consider the application in line with our local policy, legislation and the planning rules set out by the Government.

All proposals will also be scrutinised by the Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and Public Health England. Consent from the OGA is also required before any operations can take place.

Does that mean Knowsley Council can block an application for fracking even if it is supported by the Government?

Knowsley’s Planning Committee can reject any application if it considers it does not meet national legislation and planning rules.

Planning Committee must consider any application on its merits and the following issues are likely to be of particular relevance to shale gas and/or oil planning applications:

 
  • Noise
  • Dust
  • Air quality
  • Lighting
  • Visual intrusion
  • Landscape character
  • Archaeological and heritage features
  • Traffic
  • Risk of contamination of the land
  • Soil resources
  • The impact on agricultural land
  • Flood risk
  • Land stability/subsidence
  • Internationally, nationally and locally designated sites and species for nature conservation and biodiversity
  • Nationally protected geological and geomorphological sites and features
  • Plans for site restoration and aftercare
  • Cumulative or in-combination effects

These are some of the main issues and material considerations, alongside national and local policy, upon which the Planning Committee can base its decision whether to grant planning permission, regardless of the council’s opposition to fracking in principle.

Could a fracking planning application be blocked if it will have a negative impact on my house value?

House value is not a factor which the Planning Committee is allowed to take into consideration when assessing a planning application.

The only issues which may be considered by the Planning Committee are those listed in the previous answer.

Have any companies applied for planning permission to carry out fracking in Knowsley? How will we find out if/when they do?

To date, Knowsley Council has not received any planning applications from companies wishing to carry out investigations, testing or fracking for shale gas and/or oil in Knowsley.

You can look at all planning applications submitted to Knowsley Council in the planning section of our website. You can also read the agendas and related reports for meetings of the Planning Committee in this section.

We will also update this page if any applications are received.