USA disaster sparks new gas storage fear

Margaret Daniels says not enough is known about the dangers of gas storage
Margaret Daniels says not enough is known about the dangers of gas storage
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Campaigners have called for a halt to plans for a huge underground gas store in Over Wyre – and close to Fleetwood – after a massive leak in the US which has led to people being evacuated from their homes.

Members of the group Rise Up Against Gas Storage say residents from Preesall and Knott End heard from a California resident about the crisis at Porter Ranch which began in October and is still ongoing.

Margaret Daniels

Margaret Daniels

And the fears have been echoed in Fleetwood, which lies close to where the gas is earmarked to be stored in salt caverns under the River Wyre by energy firm Halite, which was granted permission by the Government for its gas storage scheme last year.

Natural gas was stored in a former underground oil works at Porter Ranch but an unexplained leak occurred spewing around 80,000 metric tonnes of methane into the atmosphere. Thousands have been moved out.

Claire Rimmer, from Rise Up, said: “Susan Gorman-Chang from Porter Ranch described to us how residents had suffered from nausea, nosebleeds, rashes and how even animals had been ill. A state of emergency has been declared.

“For local people from Knott End and Preesall it brought home the dangers that their community could face after the UK government passed a development consent order in July 2015 for underground gas storage under Preesall and Knott End.

For local people from Knott End and Preesall it brought home the dangers that their community could face after the UK government passed a development consent order in July 2015 for underground gas storage under Preesall and Knott End

“Although the storage facility in California is different, gas is stored in depleted underground oil fields, it still shows that there are huge questions about the safety of underground gas storage.”

Margaret Daniels, of Fleetwood Civic Society, which was part of the campaign group Protect Wyre, commented: “We have said right from the word go that if there is any risk of gas migration, the scheme should not be allowed. People still don’t know enough about the risks of gas storage.”

But Keith Budinger, chief executive at Halite Energy, said The Porter Ranch facility is a depleted reservoir gas storage scheme which was previously occupied by oil and therefore completely different to Halite’s project which will be created in new, purpose built caverns in areas of salt that have been untouched by previous brine mining.

He said: “Gas at Porter Ranch is stored at a very high pressure and the casings used to inject and withdraw gas are the original pipes used to store oil in the 1950s. The nature of our project means that we will have much greater control of the stored gas than is the case at Porter Ranch.”