The Environment Agency has instructed Rathlin Energy to stop the smell coming from its exploratory oil and gas well at West Newton in the Yorkshire Wolds after complaints from residents that it was making them feel sick.
Rathlin Energy denied the smell was dangerous and told The Guardian that people’s awareness could be heightened by “anything out of the ordinary.
A company spokesman said: “There has been a slight odour associated with our ongoing testing operations. Our work continues to be monitored by our own people and the regulatory authorities. The odour is not hazardous to health”.
In a statement, the Environment Agency said: “Following a site inspection we have instructed the company to find the source immediately and take action to fix it. The company is now undertaking urgent work to solve the problem”.
Rathlin Energy has a permit for a conventional exploratory well but not to frack. It has been allowed to continue drilling.
The EA statement added: “Operators are required to comply with their permits and the Environment Agency can, and will, stop operations if there is a risk to the environment.”
Posts on a Facebook site for the West Newton Community Protection Camp have described the smell as “absolutely vile”, “overpowering” and nauseating.
A post on Sunday (September 14th) said: “Waking up to this smell makes you instantly want to retch”. Sandra Baxter, who said she lives in the house closest to the site, wrote: “I could not go outside on Friday had to ring envi health my eyes were watering and stinging throat feeling weird and could not stop coughing”.
On Monday, a post said there was flaring at the site but it had not removed the odour. Yesterday (September 18th) a post said: “Methane again today. 11.00hrs just before and during flaring. Heavy heavy odour this time an audible alarm could be heard.. Reporting AGAIN to the EA… as soon as flaring is done.”
“That was seriously the biggest and most noxious release of Methane here at West Newton since the leaking began. All of us have headaches now and the air is thick with the smell of the additive. Again we must urge visitors to think twice about coming to West Newton with BA gear”.
Rathlin Energy’s statement denied the smell was methane. It said: “There is water in the well and the mixing fluids being used are causing the smell. The smell is not methane nor is it additives. I am told that it is from the composition of naturally occurring fluids within the well formation.”