Oil bosses in Lincolnshire have said events in Ukraine “starkly illustrate” the importance of fuel independence in the UK as campaigners fight plans to explore a county beauty spot.
Egdon Resources has applied to Lincolnshire County Council for a short extension for its plans for oil exploration near North Kelsey. It is also currently looking to appeal a rejection for a controversial oil drill in Biscathorpe.
Russia has launched a military attack in Ukraine this morning, with reports of missile strikes and explosions near major cities. The news has seen the price of oil rise to $100 per barrel for the first time since 2014.
In a televised statement on the war in Ukraine, PM Boris Johnson at lunchtime said Europe must also collectively cease the reliance on oil and gas that has given Putin a grip on the continent.
As part of the announcement, the PM said there would be a “massive package of economic sanctions designed in time to hobble the Russian economy”.
Campaigners, however, have renewed their efforts to oppose the exploratory oil drilling near Caistor and launched an online petition which now has almost 1,000 signatures.
Mark Abbott, managing director of Egdon, said: “Our planned exploratory drilling at North Kelsey could prove up viable indigenous oil reserves which would help towards the UK’s fuel independence, the importance of which has been starkly illustrated by the current events in Ukraine, whilst minimising carbon emissions and providing local and national economic benefits.”
He told reporters: “Despite the UK’s progress in renewable forms of energy, oil remains a critical resource to heat our homes and businesses, fuel our transport and is an important feedstock for the manufacture of numerous everyday goods including items as diverse as medicines and the blades for wind turbines.
“Government policy makes it clear that oil and gas remains an important part of the UK’s energy mix and the Energy White Paper (2020) confirms that the need for oil and gas will continue for decades to come and indeed even beyond 2050.”
The SOS North Kelsey campaign recently gathered on farmland off a narrow country lane at North Kelsey Moor, near Caistor, with banners.
They say Egdon’s plans to drill on the site are causing anxiety for local people.
The group’s petition had 969 signatures at the time of writing.
Resident and campaigner, Amanda Suddaby, said “Egdon Resources have technically had permission to drill here since 2014, but in seven years all they’ve done is submit further plans to expand the scope of the drill site.
“This practice of ‘planning by stealth’ creates anxiety for local people and undermines public confidence in our decision-makers.
“Thank goodness though, that they haven’t started any real work, because this can still be stopped before any major harm is done to this beautiful environment and the wildlife that it supports.”
She told reporters the “trivial amount” of oil which could be obtained would “not outweigh the adverse impacts on the local area and communities”.
“It is estimated that over 15 years, the total output from the site would provide only enough oil to satisfy UK consumption for a few hours, and there is no guarantee or legislation to ensure that it will remain in the UK; oil and gas are traded internationally, and the UK exports more than half of its oil.”
Campaigners say the site is home to numerous rare and declining wildlife species and concerns include air, light, noise and traffic pollution, loss of amenity, visual impact and the negative effect on local businesses in farming and tourism.
They are backed by five parish councils, Caistor Town Council, West Lindsey District Council and Gainsborough MP Sir Edward Leigh among others.
They have also been spurred on by Lincolnshire County Council’s decision earlier this year to reject plans to drill near Biscathorpe.
Mr Abbott said the proposals were for a “short extension” to the existing planning permission, were “temporary in nature” and had been “rigorously assessed”.
“The request for the extension is largely due to the impacts of COVID-19 which made it impossible for us to undertake and conclude the drilling operation before the end of 2021 as had been planned.”
He added: “Locally produced oil has a much lower carbon footprint than the oil which the UK increasingly imports from around the world.”
He said there were no unacceptable impacts, with permission already granted previously by LCC and an environmental permit issued by the Environment Agency.
“Oil exploration operations have been undertaken throughout Lincolnshire, largely un-noticed, for many decades, with minimal impact on the environment and local amenity,” he said.