Campaigners call for gas storage plan to be rejected

Campaigners have called on the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) to turn away an application for a gas storage facility in Lancashire until more work is carried out to address safety fears at the site.

Developer Halite Energy submitted a development consent application for an underground gas storage facility in the Preesall Saltfield. It proposes to store up to 900 million cubic metres of natural gas in a network of up to 19 caverns created by dissolving salt layers 300 metres below the surface.

Critics of the scheme say the application should be rejected because of concerns surrounding a rupture of a well casing in June at a historic brine well on the site owned by Halite.

After an investigation, the firm said this was due to a mechanical failure.

Halite said the failure was likely to have been caused by tampering and informed Lancashire Police. But campaign group Protect Wyre claimed there is no evidence of sabotage and has called for an assessment of other brine wells along with remediation work to ensure their safety.

The group's vice-chairman, Howard Phillips, said: "It's going to take them two years to put this right. It's not responsible to put an application in to the IPC before they've looked carefully at these other wells."

A spokesman for Lancashire Constabulary confirmed that an investigation has taken place but said the findings were inconclusive. "We have found no verifiable evidence either way to suggest whether a crime has or has not been committed," he said. "Unless new substantive evidence comes to light, we have concluded our investigation."

Halite said its investigation of the site of its proposed new facility had shown that a cavern below the affected brine well "is stable and the cavern roof and floor remain intact and unchanged". The company said there is no cause for concern about future cavern collapse in the area.

In a statement made when the firm's investigation was concluded, Halite chief executive Keith Budinger said security has been stepped up to reduce the risk of tampering. "Site safety and security has also been strengthened by appointing a 24-hour security ranger patrol to monitor our land," he said.

Protect Wyre said it has also asked the IPC to consider rejecting the application because of concerns about the public consultation process. The group said the first phase of consultation, which began this spring, should have included details of future phases of consultation.

The IPC has until 30 December to decide whether to accept Halite's application for a formal examination next year.


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