14th Onshore Licensing Round, August 2015

Unconventional gas has been a contentious issue in Somerset over the past few years with the possibility of exploration and development of both Coalbed Methane and Shale Gas. Until August 2015 this has been focused on the Bristol-Somerset coalfield with Keynsham, Chew Magna, Compton Martin, Hinton Blewett and Ston Easton identified by the gas industry as being suitable exploration drilling locations. All of the licenses covering this area have (for now) been relinquished but the 14th Onshore Licensing Round for petroleum licenses is now in full swing (August 2015) with potentially 7 licences being awarded in West Somerset and 4 on the county’s eastern boarder. These licence blocks (10 x 10 km areas) all include, or are near to, sites that are legally designated as protected areas by the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations, 2010, so they have to undergo a Habitats Regulations Assessment and public consultation – which is now ongoing. You can download all of the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) documentation covering the whole country.  At over 100 Mbytes of PDFs this is a very unwieldily and confusing set of information.

Open Data to the Rescue

How can Open Data help the public to come to an informed view about the possibility of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in these areas and its potential impact on protected habitats and species?  All of the spatial information in the Government documents is publicly available making bespoke map production and spatial analysis feasible.  For Somerset the licence blocks are being evaluated to get a handle on whether fracking might impact on the statutory protected areas in the region and specifically Special Areas of Conservation (Habitats Directive), Special Protection Areas (Birds Directive) and RAMSAR wetland sites (RAMSAR Convention). Note that in this area these protected designations fall pretty much one on top of the other. DECC have done what looks like some fancy spatial analysis with 1  km and 10 km zones of impact and references to species and habitats that occur within these zones in relation to the license blocks. However, their analysis in Somerset just boils down to whether fracking activites at can occur outside of the zones (Yes) or if any are permitted within the zones (No) – which is a binary decision. So rather than trawl though masses of confusing and repetitive information in DECC’s documents, a simple map of the these specific protected areas in relation to a base map and the licence blocks should convey the same information in a more accessible manner. Click to download.

Western Licence Blocks and Designated Areas

Note that the western Somerset licence HAS been taken up by the gas industry applicant.

14th Round Oil & Gas Licence Area, West Somerset
14th Round Oil & Gas Licence Area, West Somerset

Eastern Licence Blocks and Designated Areas

Note that the eastern Somerset licence has NOT been taken up the gas industry applicant.

14th Round Oil & Gas Licence Area, East Somerset
14th Round Oil & Gas Licence Area, East Somerset

Data Sources

The licence blocks (ST04 etc) include the land and the foreshore. The data set used to create this map are:

  • Ordnance Survey Strategy roads and national parks
  • Ordnance Survey Meridian DLUA regions (places)
  • Ordnance Survey Open Vector Map foreshore and coastline
  • Joint Nature Conservation Committee RAMSAR sites (Wetlands)
  • Joint Nature Conservation Committee Special Areas of Conservation (Habitats)
  • Joint Nature Conservation Committee Special Protection Areas (Birds)

Data Licence and Copyright Notice

These dataset are all covered by the Open Government Licence.

© Crown copyright. All rights reserved. Natural England, 2015.

© Crown copyright. All rights reserved. Joint Nature Conservation Committee Support Co, 2015.

© Contains Ordnance Survey Data.  Crown Copyright and Database Right (2015).