In response to recent coverage of the Government’s decision to grant consent for Halite’s underground gas storage project at Preesall, I would like to take this opportunity to address those concerns raised by local residents and to correct some of the inaccuracies about the project.
Firstly, I must stress that this is not the same scheme as the Canatxx proposal that was previously rejected. The current scheme is a result of four years’ in-depth work by Halite, resulting in a project that is smaller in scale, more geologically viable and even more extensively and rigorously examined as a result of the new statutory processes under the Planning Act 2008.
With regards to safety, it is important to stress that the Planning Inspectorate, the Health & Safety Executive and the Secretary of State have all confirmed they are satisfied with the safety of the project. The UK has a flawless track record when it comes to storing gas safely in salt caverns, with zero incidents since the first facility was built at Hornsea, Yorkshire in 1979.
Contrary to what some of our opponents might claim, the gas will be stored in purpose-built, brand new caverns and none of the existing caverns that were created by ICI will be used. The Health & Safety Executive will also insist on signing off every single cavern before it can store gas to ensure maximum safety.
While we understand there is opposition to our project, we would also like to reiterate that there has been a groundswell of support from the two Chambers of Commerce in Lancashire, the CBI, IoD and many local businesses. In fact, 129 letters of support were submitted to the Government during the planning process.
The Government has recognised that there is a national need for investment in new gas storage facilities like the one that will be built at Preesall, which is critical for securing the UK’s future energy supply and keeping costs down. With only around 14 days of gas storage, compared to 59 in Italy and 87 in France, the UK is at risk of running out during the harsh winters we experience. Our project will add 20 per cent to the UK’s gas storage capacity and help to reduce reliance on importation of gas from other countries such as Russia.
It is not just the UK as a whole that is set to benefit from our project, but also the local residents, environment and economy. We have made it our priority to ensure that as much of the investment as possible is made in Lancashire through local procurement and recruitment, drawing upon the skills and products of contractors in our supply chain and providing job opportunities for local people. We have also worked closely with statutory consultees such as the Wildlife Trust, RSPB and Natural England to actively improve natural habitats, nurture native species and encourage diversity, enhancing wildlife, conservation and land stewardship.
As the project develops from consent to construction, Halite remains committed to listening to the views of the community and we will continue to keep them informed throughout the detailed pre-construction planning and design phase and build programme commencing in late 2016.
In light of the above, I hope some of our opponents reading this will take the opportunity to reassess their views of the project so that we can work together to make real, long lasting improvements in line with the needs of the local area.
Keith Budinger, chief executive, Halite Energy Group