Methane drilling plan near town sparks protests
AN energy firm is planning to drill into coal reserves near Keynsham to look for untapped methane gas.
UK Methane has said it will apply for planning permission in October for a small test rig on land close to the Hicks Gate roundabout, where the A4 meets the Avon Ring Road.
It would entail three months of exploratory drilling, with a year's evaluation to assess the viability of making it a production site.
But campaigners are concerned about the process known as "fracking", which involves using fluids at high pressure to fracture underground rocks to release gases such as methane for extraction as fuel.
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Rachel Greenwood, from the Bristol Rising Tide environment group, said: "We don't want our water to be polluted. Once fracking takes place contamination of land and water, and the devastation of local ecosystems, is inevitable. You cannot do it safely."
Another group, Transition Keynsham, has launched a petition opposing the plans, which will be sent to Bath & North East Somerset Council and Keynsham Town Council. It has already gained more than 300 signatures since this week's launch.
Organiser Laura Corfield said UK Methane has requested a meeting with Transition Keynsham to discuss the proposal.
The Frack Free Keynsham & Saltford campaign also claims the extraction of coalbed methane – the gas found in coal seams – can lead to water and land contamination, including agricultural land, as well as "destroying surrounding areas of countryside by creating an industrial landscape".
Fears have been raised that if fracking affects underground water supplies it could damage Bath spa.
But North East Somerset MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, whose constituency includes Hicks Gate, said: "My view is that it is potentially an extremely exciting and cheap source of energy, which is well worth looking into.
"There is the caveat about the Bath hot springs – if there is a risk to the Bath hot springs, we obviously shouldn't do it. Whether there is any evidence that fracking in Keynsham would have an impact, I'm not sure."
Bath’s Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster fears that fracking could affect the springs, one of the city’s most famous attrations.
However, UK Methane director Gerwyn Williams told the BBC the process was already used safely worldwide.
He said the firm would be giving presentations about the scheme in the coming weeks.
The Post could not reach UK Methane for comment last night.