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Underground Gas Storage (Winchester)

Volume 654: debated on Tuesday 27 February 1962

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12.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what advice he received from the Geological Survey in connection with the projected storage of imported gas near and beneath the City of Winchester.

19.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what investigations he has conducted, in conjunction with the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Geological Survey, into the matter of water extrusion from rock of high porosity, and replacing the water with gas, for underground storage purposes, as projected under Winchester; whether he will publish all relevant data showing desirable safety measures; and whether he will make a statement on leakage, seepage, subsidence, and safety in relation to underground gas storage, in suitable form.

When the Geological Survey was first consulted by the Gas Council about this scheme, it advised that the Council should drill supplementary boreholes. This was done and, on the basis of the further results so obtained, the Geological Survey has now advised—in relation to the underground geological structure, which is the Survey's primary concern in this case, and with respect to a smaller storage area than that originally proposed—that there should be no gas leakage or surface subsidence if specified precautions are taken.

Can my hon. Friend say whether the smaller structure referred to is the Crabwood structure, and can he enlarge at all upon the precautions? Further, will he put a copy of the report in the Library?

With regard to the last part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, the advice that has been tendered to the Gas Council over this period is the property of the Gas Council to disclose as it thinks fit; it is purely advice tendered when asked for.

As to the size of the more limited storage area, I should not like to commit myself to naming a particular area. It is somewhat smaller than the original area proposed. The six precautions that were suggested were, first, that the storage area should be more limited; second, that measures should be taken to ensure that the limits of the storage area should be controlled; third, that the Gas Council should undertake further physical studies of the lower greensand; fourth, that the pressures proposed for the insertion of the gas should not be exceeded; fifth, that adequate observation wells round the storage area should be continuously observed, and, sixth, that some of the works originally proposed by the Gas Council should be resited.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there are large volumes of subterranean water beneath Winchester—notably, beneath the Cathedral, and other historic buildings—which, for more than a year and until quite recently, occupied the attention of a diver? As the extrusion of water from the porous rooks and its replacement by gas would inevitably lead to subsidence, implying a direct threat to the Cathedral building itself, could he not publish all the information furnished by the Geological Survey data for the guidance of hon. Members such as myself who are seeking to oppose this infamous Measure?

It would not be within the field of geological research for the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Geological Survey to conduct experiments on the extrusion of water from high porosity rocks and replacing the water by gas, but if the various precautions I have mentioned were implemented that would, in the opinion of the Geological Survey, be adequate to safeguard local groundwater supplies. The publication of any advice tendered by the Survey is a matter to be decided by the promoters of the Bill, to whom it was tendered.