Regulation

Multiple failings with Third Energy’s fracking application revealed

Third Energy’s planning application to frack in Ryedale contained missing, incorrect, vague and conflicting information.

It used out-of-date maps and failed to consider the effect of fracking on air quality at a neighbouring tourist resort and caravan and camping park. Crucially, the application did not make it clear enough to planners whether it was seeking permission to frack for gas production or to flow test the well.

These conclusions are in a letter to Third Energy from North Yorkshire County Council planners. Last month, the council refused to validate the application for the KM8 well at Kirby Misperton. The company withdrew the application and submitted a new one last week.

The planners’ letter explaining the reasons against validation was released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by Frack Free Ryedale. The group published the letter this afternoon and analysed its contents.

Third Energy’s application was never published and the company has not revealed why it was not validated. In a statement the company said the individual reasons were “not difficult to address”. And according to Shale Gas Insider, it said the problems included “the misspelling of a road name and changes to the flow rate of the proposed gas pipes”.

But the letter from North Yorkshire’s Head of Planning ran to nine pages and identified 29 specific problems. It said there were failings with the planning application form, the plans and drawings and the Planning and Environmental Statements, two key part of the submission. Third Energy also failed to follow the council’s validation requirements, the planners said.

The letter said: “the level of uncertainty” in the application gave “cause for concern”. It called for a review of assumptions behind the Environmental Statement in case they were incorrect or unfounded.

Unclear purpose

Third Energy said it was planning five hydraulic fracturing treatments on the KM8 well. But the council letter said it had not been able to “categorically establish that the proposal put forward seeks planning permission for the production of gas solely from the five hydraulic fracture processes as proposed in the application.”

It also wrote: “It is important that the Planning Authority is provided with information regarding exactly for what purpose permission is being sought”.

Wrong information

The letter said parts of the application used out of date Ordnance Survey base maps. These didn’t show an expanded caravan and camping park, which is now 400m from the proposed site. The application suggested the park was 300m further from the site than it actually is.

A map which was supposed to show the site did not wholly encompass the application area. There were also misspellings and the application used incorrect checklists.

Missing detail

The air quality impact assessment did not consider the impact of the proposed operation on people using the caravan and camping park or the neighbouring Flamingo Land tourist resort.

There were no detailed schemes for monitoring air quality, gas, water quality, noise or protected species. Nor were there detailed plans for hydraulic fracturing, site after care, community liaison or the management of water, traffic, lighting or restoration, the letter said.

The application did not refer to any planning policies of Ryedale District Council.

On the application form, the planners said Third Energy failed to include:

  • Period of permission
  • Estimated quantity of gas produced per day
  • Anticipated total reserve
  • Life of the well in years
  • Likely timescale of production
  • Hours of work
  • Employment
  • Details of rig height
  • UKOOG community benefit scheme
  • Restoration details
  • List of plans, drawings and other supporting information

On restoration, the application form said this would “be the reverse of the wellsite construction phase, as detailed in the previous planning application”. The council said readers of planning applications should “not be expected to undertake further research to find the relevant information”.

The planning statement gave no indication of pressures and volumes to be used in individual fracking treatments. It did not define what was meant by the “main treatment” and gave no details about the quantities of proppant or additives.

“These are significant material considerations to be taken into account in respect of the proposal being put forward” the council said, “and should be provided”.

The council said it could not assess the impact of removing waste because the planning statement did not refer to the volume generated. The references to electro-coagulation and UV screening of waste were not explained, making misinterpretation and confusion possible.

Contradictions

Text which said “all flowback water may be diverted directly to storage tanks on site” did not match the diagrams of equipment. The lighting text also failed to correlate with drawings.

The site is in a dark skies area, the council letter said. “The presence of significant numbers of high wattage lighting units will undoubtedly material impact upon the amenity of the area during night-time periods. It is therefore important to be precise and avoid the use of statements as “when lighting is not required it will be switched off”.

Frack Free Ryedale response

The campaign group said this afternoon: “It appears to us that Third Energy are trying to make this look like an application for a test frac (as they did in the Residents’ Brochure), by only quoting the amount of water, truck movements and time needed to do this phase – but they are in fact trying to sneak in an open-ended request for full production on the back of this, without including any figures for amount of gas, time needed, water quantities, chemical quantities, truck movements, etc etc that would be needed for commercial production. Fortunately the good people at the NYCC [North Yorkshire County Council] seem wise to this ploy and have pulled them up on this on numerous occasions.”

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