Newport Wetlands oil-drill firm to hear council decision
A COMPANY that wants to drill for oil on the Gwent Levels will hear today whether or not it will win approval from the city’s Planning committee.
Sonorex is seeking full planning permission for a drill that will search for oil and gas at a site less than 200 metres from the Newport Wetlands.
A report to the planning committee said the drilling will not involve the controversial method of hydraulic fracturing – better known as fracking.
But it does say there is a possibility, albeit unlikely, that fracking could be used to extract the oil and gas if the exploration led to commercial exploitation of what is found.
Planning officers have recommended that Newport planning committee approve the plans in a meeting today.
Gwent Wildlife Trust and Newport Friends of the Earth have both objected amid concerns that the drilling could affect the local environment.
But the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which runs the wetlands’ visitor centre, did not respond to a consultation on the issue.
The Countryside Council for Wales, which manages and owns the Newport Wetlands reserve, had no objection.
According to the planning report Sonorex is looking for permission for an oil and gas exploratory drill site that will be operated for a temporary period of 25 to 40 days in a field west of Great House Farm, in Uskmouth.
Once a bore well is drilled, the drilling rig will be removed. The entire project will take around six months to complete.
Gwent Wildlife Trust objected over worries that drilling mud could leak into water courses, and extended well tests are likely to disturb nearby species, but the council’s ecologist had raised no objection, the planning report said.
The report said Newport Friends of the Earth claimed the proposal will lead to fracking – where water chemicals are pumped into the ground to release gas and oil.
But the planning report states that the proposal itself will not involve extraction by such methods.
“In the event of the site being made permanent, there is potential for fracking to be carried out,” it said, although Sonorex had told the council it is highly unlikely given the ground conditions in the area.
The plan would need further permission from the UK government to go ahead.