Licences close to Helmsley
Please note: we offer this information in good faith, in the belief that it is factually correct; however, we cannot guarantee that we have not made any mistakes. If you spot any errors, please let us know.
In August 2015, the government proposed 159 new Petroleum Exploration and Drilling Licence blocks across the UK.
Many of the original licence blocks, including those closest to Helmsley, were subject to Habitats Assessment under EU law before they could be awarded, and it was the publication of maps as part of that process that first drew our attention to the proposed locations. All the licences were awarded to energy companies in Dec 2015, with the six closest to Helmsley being awarded to Ineos.
Where are the closest licence blocks?
Below are the maps of these six original licence blocks, showing a central red 'licence block boundary' (where actual drilling might take place), surrounded by a 'zone of potential influence' (previously labelled 'zone of potential impact') that extends 10km (6.2 miles) in all directions beyond the licence block. A typical licence block boundary is itself 10km wide, which means that its zone of potential influence would cover an area 30km across. These large zones would obviously overlap if drilling was taking place in several licence blocks at the same time.
Helmsley falls within the zone of potential influence of all six of these licences. We have also put together a table showing which towns and villages are affected by which licences - click here to see it in a new window.
Click each map to see a larger version of it in a new window.
SE57 SE67a SE68b SE78f SE69 SE79
The licence blocks in some of these maps are actually adjacent to one another - in fact they form pairs: SE57 and SE67a go together, as do SE68b and SE78f, and also SE69 and SE79.
Since they were awarded these licences in December 2015, Ineos have joined these pairings into single, larger PEDL licences, as shown below - click the image to see the whole map in a new window: SE57 and SE67a have become PEDL 208; SE68b and SE78f have become PEDL 284; and SE69 and SE79 have become PEDL 285.
Please note that the above map only shows the new licences that have been awarded to Ineos.
Which licences have a firm commitment to drill?
When we received notification of the above from Ineos, it was not easy at first to see how it fitted together with what we had already learnt during the Habitats Assessment - for example, numbers and terms had changed, licences had been merged and we only had detailed information from one energy company: Ineos.
However, we put together information from different sources and were able to create a table showing all the new Ryedale licences, how they relate to the previous licences, which parishes they cover and the energy company's current level of commitment to drilling. Where there is a 'firm commitment' to drill, the energy company has to carry out that commitment within five years: we have highlighted the licences with such a firm commitment in yellow. Other licences are designated 'drill or drop': it is important to note that 'drill or drop' does not mean that there is no intention to drill, it only means that the energy company is not held to any firm timescale for drilling, as it would be if it had made a firm commitment. Click the image below to see the table full-size in a new window.
Several other energy firms do operate in Ryedale: Cuadrilla has been awarded some new licences, and Third Energy already owned others - including the one at Kirby Misperton. In addition, Moorland Energy has held a very large licence across the Vale of Pickering for a number of years, but has not yet stated whether or not it intends to undertake fracking. You can see all of the licences in Ryedale on an interactive map provided by the Dept of Energy and Climate Change by clicking here.
Can energy companies start fracking here now?
One thing to bear in mind when looking at these maps is that surface drilling is not allowed by law within National Parks or within Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty - although energy companies could drill just outside and then drill horizontally underneath.
The first stage for an energy company would be to identify an area that looks promising in terms of information they already possess, e.g. about local geology or about practical features such as accessibility by road.
The next stage would be to seek permission from landowners to carry out geophysical testing: this can involve a variety of techniques - for instance people walking across the land with monitoring equipment, or drilling mini-boreholes to put in electronic monitors and laying cables across the surface - in order to assess what is underground. Test boreholes do not need planning permission.
Landowners are able to refuse permission for any testing or surface drilling on their land, although they do not have any control over energy companies drilling sideways under their land from outside the boundary.
If the results of a test borehole indicate that there are profitable amounts of shale gas available, the next stage would be for the energy company to apply to the Environment Agency for permits; they may also have to consult other organisations such as Yorkshire Water, Historic England or Natural England, depending on the specific location.
When the necessary consultations have taken place and the required permits have been obtained, the energy company can submit a planning application to allow fracking to go ahead. An important factor affecting this process is that the government has now stated that they will 'call in' applications if they consider that they have been taking too long - this means that the decision can be taken out of the hands of local planning authorities.
For full details about the process that energy companies have to go through before putting infrastructure on the site, click here to go to a government website.