The Environment Agency announced this afternoon it has granted permits to Third Energy to allow it to frack for shale gas at the KM8 well at Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire.
Three permits cover:
- Mining waste
- Discharges into groundwater
- Radioactive substances
The Environment Agency said the permits require Third Energy to comply with conditions that “protect groundwater, surface water and air quality and to ensure the safe storage, management and disposal of waste materials”.
The company still needs planning permission for the operation. Martin Christmas, the EA’s environment manager for North Yorkshire, said:
“We are confident that these environmental permits set out the right conditions to ensure that people and the environment are protected.
“Should Third Energy receive the appropriate planning permission and begin the permitted activities, we will stringently enforce the conditions of the permits to ensure that waste is managed properly and local groundwater is protected.”
John Dewar, Operations Director, of Third Energy said:
“This is another important step towards having the necessary permissions in place to fracture the KM8 well and evaluate the potential of the shale resource to produce gas commercially. The permits cover, amongst other things, the frac fluid and the disposal of flow back water.
“The issuing of these permits demonstrates that the Environment Agency is satisfied that the hydraulic fracturing operation, including frac fluid which is non-hazardous to ground water and the disposal of the flow back water, can be managed without impacting on the local environment.”
Reaction from opponents and supporters of Third Energy’s plans here
Before fracking, the permits require Third Energy to carry out baseline studies of air quality and surface and ground water.
The company must provide details of how it will monitor ground and surface water and supply information on groundwater monitoring boreholes, including how groundwater will be protected.
Before fracking begins it must also:
- Conduct a well integrity test on the KM8 borehole
- Publish the results of the well integrity test
- Submit a written hydraulic fracture plan
- Establish a seismic monitoring programme
Once operations are underway, the permits require the company to monitor groundwater for more than 40 substances at five onsite and six offsite boreholes. It must also carry out monitoring of air quality and the composition of hydraulic fracturing fluid
Third Energy said: “The company will undertake additional actions to ensure conditions attached to the permits are met, ensuring further and ongoing protections.”
It added: “Monitoring is important as it will show whether or not our operations have impacted conditions and provide reassurance to both the residents and the wider local community.”
The EA said Third Energy must undertake real-time monitoring of seismic activity during and after fracturing. This includes monitoring the spread of fractures to ensure that they remain within the Bowland Shale formation, the EA said.
“We have stipulated that the operator report the results of testing undertaken to ensure we know this condition is being complied with”, the EA added.
“If propagation outside the Bowland Shale Formation should occur it will be identified by the seismic monitoring and the HFP [hydraulic fracture plan] will have to be modified to minimise the risk of it happening again; for example by reducing the volume of fracture fluid being used or reducing the pressure applied”.
Third Energy estimated that approximately 30% of injected fluid for each fracturing stage is predicted to return as flowback fluid to the surface. The EA said: “We consider these predictions to be reasonable”.
The EA added that it considered the fluid that would be retained underground was “non-hazardous” and that “leaving the retained fluid in situ within the Bowland Shale Formation is BAT (Best Available Technique).”
The EA concluded that noise and vibration were not considered to be an issue because of the background level of noise, KM8 is a rural site and is more than 200m from the nearest home.
It said it was satisfied that a proposed 8.7m noise barrier would control noise. “The potential for noise complaints is reduced further by limiting the noisier activities to daylight hours only”, it added.
The granting of environmental permits is separate from planning permission. The planning application is being considered by North Yorkshire County Council and will be voted on by the authority’s planning committee. There is no date yet for when that committee will meet.
Link to EA consultation page with onward links to decision documents and permits