Petition over methane gas drill plans in east Kent

An anti-fracking group's petition against plans to drill for methane gas at old coalfields has attracted more than 100 signatures on its first day.

Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd wants to carry out exploratory work in Shepherdswell, Guston and Tilmanstone in Kent.

East Kent Against Fracking is concerned the drilling will cause light, noise and traffic pollution and could lead to hydraulic fracturing or "fracking".

A fracking expert said methane drilling was different to shale gas exploration.

Julie Wassmer, vice chair of East Kent Against Fracking, said that the petition, which started on Wednesday had already gathered a lot of support.

'Shallower wells'

She added: "In spite of what happens below the ground with fracking, above the ground certainly what will happen with an exploratory well site is there could be potentially hundreds of such wells in a single well field.

"Residents in those sites will experience high levels of noise and light pollution from floodlights.

"There will be many heavy goods vehicles going to and from the site, risk of spillage of toxic fluids, local road damage and there could also be flaring of methane gas."

Parish councils are holding meetings this week to discuss the plans, which are only for exploration, and have been submitted to Kent County Council.

The authority said residents had until 15 November to make comments about the applications.

Dr Chris Green from Gfrac, a hydraulic fracture consultancy firm, said drilling for methane gas was different to exploring for shale gas, which is what provoked protests in Balcombe in East Sussex.

Sand and chemicals

He said it used lower pressures and the wells are shallower.

He added: "It depends on the coal and that is what we need to figure out, what kind of coal bed we have.

"It may not be necessary to fracture and in which case it is just a case of pulling off the water for a period of time and then it starts to produce its own gas."

Hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" is a process by which sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well.

Dover District Council is also meeting to discuss a motion calling for a full report on the implications of the applications.

Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd already has permission to conduct exploratory gas drilling at nearby Woodnesborough.

The company declined to comment on the latest applications.

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