Regulation

N Yorks council failed to assess fracking impact on bats – Friends of the Earth

KM82

Councillors deciding Third Energy’s fracking application in North Yorkshire were given “misleading” information about bats flying over the wellsite, Friends of the Earth said today.

The county council’s planning committee granted permission for the proposal at Kirby Misperton in May this year after being told by officers the site was “devoid of bats”.

But a survey carried out for Third Energy after the approval recorded five species of bats at the site and on some nights counted more than 100 flight passes.

Friends of the Earth said the survey findings exposed failures by North Yorkshire County Council to assess the impact of fracking on wildlife. The council is standing by its approach.

Bats are protected under UK and European law. It is an offence to: disturb them when they are sheltering; damage or destroy a place used by bats; or obstruct access to a bat roost.

Calls for survey

Earlier this year, Friends of the Earth, Yorkshire Wildlife and Frack Free Ryedale argued that the council should not grant planning permission for fracking at the KM8 well until a proper bat survey had been carried out.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust told the council:

“The lack of surveys for both bats and great crested newts means that the authority does not have full information on the impacts of the development before making a decision.”

But a report by planning officers to the committee deciding the application stated:

“Bats … have not been identified within the applicant’s submitted planning application as either being present or their habitat affected by the proposed development.”

It also said:

“The development as proposed would be undertaken within an area known to be devoid of bats.”

And:

“The applicant’s ecologist and the County Council’s own adviser are satisfied, having considered the evidence, that there are no bats present on the application site”.

bats-extract

Extract of officers’ report to North Yorkshire County Council’s planning committee

The report concluded that a survey was not necessary and on 23 May 2016, the planning committee voted by seven to four to approve the application.  DrillOrDrop

New findings

Since then, Third Energy has been required, under a condition on the planning permission, to produce a Wildlife Protection Method Statement. This included a baseline survey of bats by AECOM in June-September this year.

The survey comprised walked transects and records from two remote detectors on the edge of the wellsite.

It concluded there was:

“generally low activity across the survey area”

And

“The low levels of bat activity found at the site supports the conclusions of the ecological impact assessment, which appraised the survey area to be of low value to foraging and community bats”.

But AECOM recorded five species of bat: common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, brown long-eared bat, noctule and an unidentified Myotis bat species (More on bat species here).

And the data for the survey shows that the remote detectors recorded more than 100 bat passes on individual nights in June, July and August.

While activity was assessed as low and sometimes very low during most of the survey, AECOM categorised activity as low-moderate at one location in early June.

bat-activity

AECOM findings on static bat detectors

Reaction

North Yorkshire County Council said in a statement today:

The Council notes that the Wildlife Protection Method Statement required by the Planning Conditions, concludes on Page 12:

“The low levels of bat activity found at the site supports the conclusions of the ecological impact assessment, which appraised the survey area to be of low value to foraging and commuting bats.”

“The ecological impact assessment was appropriately considered by the Planning Committee and therefore the Council does not accept the Committee had adopted the wrong approach.”

Simon Bowens, Yorkshire and Humber campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said

“The council and the public were told that the fracking site was devoid of bats. This was vital information, now shown to be inaccurate. How could it not have been misleading, now that surveys show hundreds of bat movements?

“It’s clear that the council adopted the wrong approach – as pointed out by consultants as well as Friends of the Earth and this latest evidence exposes council failures to assess the impact on wildlife.”

Third Energy

A spokesperson for Third Energy said this afternoon:

“It is worth remembering that this wellsite has been operating for thirty years. The public can be confident that the mitigation measures proposed for operations which will take less than three months at the KM8 wellsite are designed to avoid disturbance to bats that commute or forage in the area around our wellsite.”

The spokesperson added:

“The survey findings were consistent with the assumptions made in the Environmental Statement, in respect of the site itself; it has negligible suitability for foraging and roosting bats as it consists of existing hardstanding and parts of the site are lit at night. The surveys also assessed bat activity in suitable habitats in the vicinity of the KMA wellsite and recorded generally low activity across the survey area – whether by static detectors, observation or recordings.”

Legal challenge

Next week, Friends of the Earth and Frack Free Ryedale seek a judicial review of the way North Yorkshire County Council approved the Kirby Misperton application.

A judge at the Royal Courts of Justice will decide on Tuesday 22 November whether the judicial review should go ahead. If the answer is yes, the case will be heard immediately.

Links

Documents on the KM8 conditions

Planning committee documents including the planners’ report

Updated at 16.10 to include statement from Third Energy

23 replies »

  1. Clearly corruption here – illegal misrepresentation. Our nature protection laws are hard fought for and barely adequate now. We’re losing everything of value for short-term gain.

    • You missed this bit.
      ‘First author on the Current Biology paper, Dr Paul Lintott, said that although wind farms do kill bats it is important to remember the wider benefits of renewable energy in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the positive impact that this will have on global biodiversity.’

      Whilst this is tragic, I agree that mitigation should be put in place, such like that for drilling and wintering birds. The study must continue to see what is attracting the bats.

      The numbers by the way are just Telegraph stats. No firm evidence. The study must also be compared to deaths due to the erection of any large structures in the countryside and the increase in aircraft traffic.

  2. I hope they resolve the issue of wind turbines and bats, I am sure they can. But this does not detract from a planning officer failing to do her duty. The two are different issues.

  3. It is also worth mentioning that a known bat roost was close to the site and the planning officer and Third Energy were aware. I understand from locals the windows that had been broken for years and provided access to the roost, were boarded up after the planning consent was granted. I wonder how that affected the bat population?

  4. Presumably wind turbines, on location for 20 years, are more dangerous to bats than a static vertical structure like a rig which is only there for a few months, due to the blades spinning. Especially the smaller ones with higher speed blades. Specific guidance for wind turbines re bats is available from Natural England TIN051:

    http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/35010?category=31008

    “To minimise risk to bat populations our advice is to maintain a 50 m buffer around any feature (trees, hedges) into which no part of the turbine intrudes. This means the edge of the rotor-swept area needs to be at least 50 m from the nearest part of the habitat feature. Therefore, 50m should be the minimum stand-off distance from blade tip to the nearest feature.”

    I would have thought that a rig site (or anything else) would be fine as long as the location preparation does not damage / remove a roost through the construction activities?

    As the KM site has previously had a rig(s) working on it and has been on production for 30 years and there are bats present one must assume that there are no bat related issues. Perhaps gas production is good for bats in some way and attarcts them (lights = insects = feeding)?

  5. “As the KM site has previously had a rig(s) working on it and has been on production for 30 years and there are bats present one must assume that there are no bat related issues. Perhaps gas production is good for bats in some way and attarcts them (lights = insects = feeding)?”

    So if you went to say, Aleppo, and found humans you’d assume there were no human related issues there would you Paul? Perhaps canonfire is good for humans? What do you reckon?

    • Perhaps you can explain what the problem is for bats at the KM site? Are they dropping out of the sky dead? I expect they are perfectly happy there, no doubt using it as a foraging area. Would you like me to rephrase my comment:

      “Bats are present at an oil and gas site as known KM which has been operating on and off for 30 years and do not appear to be coming to any harm.”

      If you have evidence that bats are coming to harm you can report Third Energy to the Police who will investigate and potentially prosecute as bats are a Schedule 1 protected species. But you won’t because this is another last ditch attempt to try and stop Third Energy from driling their well.

    • Excellent response – relieves my notion that Paul Tresco is attempting to bore opponents out of the idea that fracking is not a very intelligent option given the severity of climate change affects. Perhaps someone could explain why he is so desperate.

      • Mike – perhaps you could enlighten me on what I am so desperate about?

        If you mean I am desperate that shale gas goes ahead in the UK you are wrong. It makes no difference to me.

        However if you are desperate that it doesn’t go ahead you have a problem. Four recent applications, one approved on appeal, one allowed a revisit by the SOS, one approved a couple of days ago, one approved at KM – and subject to a JR decision later this week.

        I agree that the system is flawed but that is the system we have. You would be better off trying to change the system or implementing community plans (perhaps you already are?) as the system appears to be allowing shale gas exploration at least to proceed.

        There is of course a major problem with community plans; they have to align with the NPPF and LPA district plans – and this alignment has to be approved by PINs.

  6. The well site may have been operative as a conventional one for 30 years but if you research the legend pertaining to it, this does not mean it operated safely.

    Insulting and risible that Barclays chose ”Viking” as one name for its previous operation…given the Vikings did exactly what these bankers are doing and that is raping pillaging and polluting swathes of land without due diligence and some serious harm to the environment. Water now mingles gas deep underground after serial assaults on the landscape at Pickering Was your gas cheaper then? Read the last paragraph to find out what happened to the water supply :-
    .

    Natural gas industry
    A natural gas processing facility was formerly located in Pickering. The Lockton natural gas field was discovered under the North Yorkshire Moors National Park by the Home Oil Company of Canada in 1966.[17] It is located at a depth of 5,700 ft (1,740 m) in Middle Magnesian Limestone.[18] The gas is about 94% methane, 3% inert gas with traces of hydrogen sulphide.[19] Recoverable reserves were initially estimated to be 250 billion cubic feet (7 billion m3).[20] In an agreement between the Gas Council and Home Oil/Gas Council Exploration provision was to have been made to use the Lockton gas field for the seasonal storage of natural gas.[21]

    Facilities
    To minimise development within the National Park area only the gas wells, a field gathering station and underground pipelines were located in the Park. Gas from the gathering station was piped at 1,075 psi (74 bar) via an 18-inch (460 mm) diameter underground pipeline nine miles (14.5 km) to a treatment plant in Outgang Lane on the outskirts of Pickering.[22] Construction of the plant at Pickering started in May 1969 and was operational by August 1971. The total cost of the facilities was £4–£8 million.[19][18] It employed about 24 people.[18]

    Operation
    Hot water from the treatment plant was circulated in small-bore pipes alongside the pipeline to reduce heat losses and potential hydrate formation, an ice-like substance that can cause blockages. At the Pickering treatment plant raw gas was routed through a slug catcher and inlet separator to remove liquid hydrocarbons and water. Gas flowed to two parallel vetrocoke absorbers where it was washed with a counter-current aqueous solution of soda ash and arsenic compounds to convert the hydrogen sulphide to elemental sulphur. Gas then flowed to a hydrocarbon recovery unit where it was chilled to remove further liquid hydrocarbons, the dry sulphur-free gas passed through a British Gas metering station to Feeder No. 6 of the National Transmission System which passes through Pickering. The sulphur-rich solution from the absorbers was routed to oxidiser regenerators where air was bubbled through the solution to remove the sulphur in the form of a froth. The froth was dried in a rotary vacuum filter and heated in an autoclave to allow removal of impurities prior to being stored in tanks at about 130°C from where it was removed by heated road tanker. The regenerated absorber solution from the oxidisers, together with recovered solution from the vacuum filters, was returned for reuse in the vetrocoke absorbers. Hydrocarbon liquids were routed to condensate stabilizers and then to storage tanks for removal by road tanker.[22] (where was it taken???)

    Gas production and closure
    The original agreement between Home Oil and British Gas was a 15-year contract valued at £27 million for the delivery of 75 million standard cubic feet per day (MMSCFD) (2.1 million m3/d) of gas with a maximum flow of 100 MMSCFD (2.8 million m3/d).[20][19]

    So what happened to deep underground water????????

    By 1974 aquifer water ingress into the gas reservoir (should read deep underground water supplies are now polluted by GAS) had significantly reduced gas production to about 1 MMSCFD (28,300 m3/d).[23] The production and gas treatment facility was permanently shutdown in October 1974.[18] Over three years it had produced 11.3 billion standard cubic feet of gas (320 million standard m3), only 4.5% of the estimated recoverable reserves.

    • For gas fields there is always a risk of water ingress which will ultimately kill the wells due to the hydrostatic head of water being greater than the gas reservoir pressure. This is particularly so in tight limestone reservoirs which contain natural fractures such as Lockton. The gas reservoir is at around 6,000ft. The aquifer will be below this and will be saline at this depth and not potable. Active aquifer support is a great benefit to oil production for reservoir pressure maintenance and recovery factor.

  7. Amazing that bats which seem well able to avoid unlit trees,telephone lines etc are thought unable to avoid a gas flare! Just another dodge by those who prefer we import our gas. Public authorities should not be squandering funds on this nonsence. But please ensure no fairy rings are at risk.

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