A mother of two has made a last minute appeal to North Yorkshire councillors to refuse Third Energy’s application to frack at Kirby Misperton.
Nicky Mason, who lives in Great Habton, a mile from the proposed operation, spoke at the planning meeting on Friday about an incident at a Third Energy site which breached two conditions of the company’s environmental permit.
She began her submission:
“The reason for me standing before you today is a simple one, to try and protect the future for my children and the environment in which they are to grow up”.
In an email sent over the weekend to members of North Yorkshire’s planning committee, Ms Mason said the incident showed a failure of self-regulation and raised questions about Third Energy’s safety record in the area. She said:
“The message for the Planning Committee is clear – Third Energy are not fit to frack.”
The committee reconvenes tomorrow (Monday 23 May 2016) to hear more evidence about the application and to make its decision.
The incident raised by Ms Mason concerns the venting and flaring of just under 75,000 cubic meters of gas. This followed an operation to deal with a leak revealed during a conventional workover at the Malton 4 well in November 2015. About 90% of the gas was nitrogen and the remainder methane.
There was at least one complaint about smells. But Third Energy did not report the incident immediately to the Environment Agency (EA) as required under the permit conditions.
A report written by the EA in January 2016 and obtained following a Freedom of Information Act request recorded two permit breaches by Third Energy.
“This odour complaint is classed as substantiated and according to the management systems and permit should have been notified to the Environment Agency. In this case it was not (although was reported to Ryedale Council)”.
The Environment Agency classified the breaches as category 3 and 4 (where category 1 is the most serious and 4 the least serious).
Third Energy said in a statement the leak from a thread on a valve was detected during a conventional workover. It was described as minor and there was no risk to human or animal health, and no risk of environmental damage.
But Ms Mason said:
“The main issue is that there was a breach of their permit in not reporting the problem, not what was actually leaked.”
She was also concerned that the leak was picked up only on a reworking of the well and not on Third Energy’s monitoring systems.
“Is this equipment not sensitive enough to detect in their words “minor leaks?” When was it last checked? It could have been leaking for months.”
“If nothing else this breach of permit shows a failure in self-regulation between company and the EA. They [Third Energy] even had out-of-date Agency contact details for reporting issues! Surely a confirmation email between both parties is expected as standard to ensure any issues have been received and recorded.”
Third Energy said in its statement that “standard operations such as pressure let downs and venting are not operations that require reporting to regulators”.
But Ms Mason questioned this:
“Surely we should know if gas is leaking and vented so a detailed record can be kept of fugitive emissions. And if it was not necessary to report these things then why did EA assess it as a breach?”
The Environment Agency concluded that Third Energy’s operational systems had worked appropriately but it required the company to revise its procedures for notification and reporting “considering the requirements of Schedule 5 of the Environmental permit”.
Ms Mason is a member of the Third Energy Community Liaison Group, established “to build an open and constructive relationship between the local community and Third Energy”. Considering this, she said:
“It came as somewhat of a surprise to me to then discover that Third Energy had encountered operational problems within the last six months that we as residents were unaware of.
“Third Energy is required by law to notify the Environment Agency within 24 hours of such an incident according to the terms of their environmental permit. They didn’t. In fact, the Environment Agency was not informed until late January 2016.
‘Incidents like the one documented only bring to light the weaknesses and true nature of a company with little concern for the local area and community.
‘I, as a local resident, have no confidence in their capacity to act in an open, transparent and competent manner with this highly risky and potentially dangerous process.”
Monday’s committee session
The planning committee meets again at 9.30am tomorrow (Monday 23 May 2016). It will hear final comments against the proposal before hearing from about 14 people who support it. The list of speakers includes:
- John Dewar, Operations Director, Third Energy
- Rasik Valand, Chief Executive, Third Energy
- Ken Cronin, Chief Executive of the industry body UK Onshore Oil and Gas
- Jonathan Foster, Director Petroleum Safety Services
- Lee Petts, Managing Director of the waste treatment company, Remsol, and Chief Executive, Onshore Energy Services Group
- Andrew Buroni, health consultant
- Lorraine Allanson, Friends of Ryedale Gas Exploration and owner Rains Farm Holidays
DrillOrDrop will be reporting live updates from the committee and we’ll bring you the result when it happens.