It’s called Fracking by Stealth – companies apply for permission to drill, not to frack. They take the position that drilling is harmless and the UK Government agrees with them – no Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) needed for drilling. And even if eventually EIAs will be required, it will be for the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) stage only.

Let’s look at what can now be done without EIA

• The operator arrives on site with his first 120 trucks.

• Builds a pad.

• Brings on the rig, lighting, cement, portocabins, accommodation block, toilets, generators, compressors

• Brings on the drilling mud with drilling chemicals.

• Drills the well through an aquifer.

• Cements in conductor and then surface casing (you hope) – nobody check in the UK – there are no regulations and no inspection.

• Drills through intermediate stage

• Cements in Intermediate casing (you hope) – nobody check in the UK – there are no regulations and no inspection.

• Maybe an Formation Integrity Test executed. (Tests quality of casing)

• Drills to final depth (a mile or more)

• Cements in production casing (this definitely happens as it is needed for operator)

• Mud drill waste all transported by truck to local waste facility (this caused radioactive monitors to go off repeatedly in the States).

• Brings on the kit needed for fracking, sand (silica), chemicals in their raw 100% form, water abstraction ready – if no local supply, compressors for getting to 6,000+ psi.

• Then he is ready to frack and applies for permission to do that.

Then – AND ONLY THEN – is an EIA required in the UK under the “old” EU regulations. And now, with the complete climb down by the Commission, even this is not necessary!

Fracking by Stealth will happen because it is a good way to divert attention away and means the planners have to pass the initial permission because they need proper reasons for rejecting and just drilling a hole in the ground is hard for them to reject and so they don’t.

Planning permission for drilling has now been granted to oil and gas company Infrastrata to drill an exploratory well in County Antrim. No EIA required.

(Thanks to Mike Hill for details of drilling and title “Fracking by Stealth”)