What the judge said about allowing fracking at Kirby Misperton


A High Court judge has rejected the legal challenge against planning permission to frack in North Yorkshire.

In a judgement issued this morning, Mrs Justice Lang upheld the consent for Third Energy to frack its existing KM8 well at Kirby Misperton in Ryedale.

She dismissed claims by Friends of the Earth and Frack Free Ryedale that the decision by North Yorkshire County Council had been unlawful. See DrillOrDrop’s breaking news

The basis of the case

The case, heard over a day and a half last month, centred on two arguments by the claimants.

  • The council should have taken into account greenhouse gases that would be emitted by burning shale gas from the Kirby Misperton well site at the nearby Knapton Generating Station.
  • The council was wrong to advise its elected members that they could not legally require Third Energy to pay a financial bond to put right any damage.

North Yorkshire County Council argued in response:

  • It was entitled not to consider the effects of emissions from burning gas at Knapton because this was off the site for which planning permission was being sought, the level of emission could not be calculated but anyway the emissions would not exceed permitted levels.
  • It was entitled to decide not to require a financial bond and to conclude that the cost of restoration and aftercare would be dealt with adequately by planning conditions

More detail on greenhouse gas emissions

Friends of the Earth and Frack Free Ryedale argued that the Environmental Statement (ES) which accompanied the application was flawed because it did not include the impacts of burning gas at Knapton.

But Justice Lang ruled that the ES was adequate. She said:

“The council was entitled in the exercise of its judgement to conclude that an assessment of the environmental impacts of burning gas from KMA well site at Knapton was not required.”

She gave the following reasons:

  • The fracking application did not include any development at Knapton – which already had planning permission and environmental permits
  • Third Energy was not seeking an increase in capacity at Knapton
  • Any gas burned at Knapton would be within the limits permitted for the station
  • The gas would be indistinguishable from other well sites and so the environmental impact could not be separately quantified
  • Natural England and the Environment Agency – two other regulators on oil and gas operations – had not asked for the impacts to be considered
  • The Scoping Opinion – what the council thought should be included in the ES – did not require Third Energy to assess greenhouse gas emissions from Knapton

Justice Lang said:

“I am satisfied that the council was well aware of these issues and took them into account when resolving to grant planning permission.”

She continued:

“I find it impossible to conclude that the officers failed to guide the members sufficiently or misled them on a matter essential to their decision.”

Friends of the Earth said today that climate change and greenhouse gas emissions had been “barely discussed” by councillors at the planning meeting in May.

But Frack Free Ryedale said it drew some consolation from the judge’s comment on energy choices when she said:

“The real thrust of the objections was that energy requirements ought to be met by other, less environmentally damaging means than gas production and a gas-fuelled electricity generating station. This was essentially a judgement for the committee to make.”

More details on the financial bond

Friends of the Earth and Frack Free Ryedale argued that the planning officer’s report to the planning committee wrongly advised members that it was not legally possible to require Third Energy to provide a financial bond.

Justice Lang said in her judgement:

“I accept the council’s submission that the officer was entitled to advise the committee that this was not an exceptional case which would justify a financial guarantee.

“In giving that advice, the officer also rightly reviewed the protection afforded by other regulatory regimes, including the OGA [Oil and Gas Authority], Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive, and proposed conditions to achieve financial protection in another way.

“In my view, the terms of the conditions afford a considerable degree of protection to residents. Despite the claimants’ submission that the protection was too short-lived it was apparent that the conditions extend beyond mere restoration to a programme of after-care.

“In my judgement, the council acted lawfully in the exercise of its discretion in imposing these conditions and deciding not to seek a financial bond.”

The judge concluded:

“The Claimants’ grounds were arguable, and so permission [for the judicial review] is granted but the substantive claim for judicial review is dismissed.”

This report is part of DrillOrDrop’s Rig Watch project. Rig Watch receives funding for travel and accommodation from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. More details here


30 replies »

  1. In terms of energy efficiency and climate change, it’s interesting to note that Knapton power station is known to be only about 30% efficient. The stated intention is to burn any gas produced by KM8 there. I’m led to believe that around 60% of energy recovered by the fracking process is used to get it out of the ground (accurate figures gratefully received). If this highly inefficient recovery of energy is then burned in a highly inefficient power station to produce electricity that will then have further significant transmission line losses, how is this a sensible method of combatting the effects of climate change when so little useable energy remains after the hydrocarbon extraction and burning process? More importantly, if the planning authority is incapable of controlling such inefficiency and neither will the EA, who the hell is looking after our climate change commitments, or is that a minor point that we shouldn’t worry about until we’re all screwed by a 2 deg C plus rise in temperatures?

  2. 60%? How? And compared to taking gas out of the ground in Qatar, Arctic Norway, Siberia, US and them transporting it? Fracking itself, the actual pumping, only takes an hour or so for each stage. After that, little,if any artificial lift is needed, liberated gas molecules rise naturally.

  3. I suggest you do a little research, Mike. I really do not think such nonsense engineering/physics will fool many.

    • I thought Mike’s figure sounded about right – that’s the fuel-to-power energy conversion figure.

      Knapton … “It has a 42 MWe General Electric LM6000 open cycle gas turbine with a thermal efficiency of 38%” (wikipedia). So, 30% , given its age, is reasonable.

      The very latest and best turbines are now just hitting 60-65% efficiency.

      • Interesting Philip, but it is reliable enough to power 747s, 767s and Airbus aircraft. So can’t be all bad?

        “The power generation facilities consist of RLM 6000 EGT generation package with a LM6000 gas turbine. This is an industrial version of General Electric’s CF6-80C2 aero-engine which powers many Boeing 747, Boeing 767 and Airbus aircraft.”

        I guess the key to success is the 99% reliability and 98% availability. Just add gas and we have a reliable consistent supply of base load (or demand) electricity.

        Your point is valid and I would expect Third Energy to upgrade the Knapton turbine to something more modern if the KM-8 test is productive. Perhaps two or three additional turbines may be warranted if the shale test is good?

        Of course this would require a new planning application. Would this be supported or objected to by posters on this BB?

        • Not sure of your point but thanks for the mini lecture Paul. I have a family member who works on turbine control systems all across Europe btw.

  4. I am surprised that Friends of the Earth made such a legal challenge. To challenge the planning application on grounds of the emissions arising from the operation of the site itself, yes? And I think it is Nick Grealy and Martin Collyer, who should do some research into high pressure, slick water hydraulic fracturing?

    • It would appear that FOE have misled the local residents and built up hope where there clearly wasn’t any chance of this JR being successful. And cost the local opposition group £5,000 in costs plus any costs they incurred directly through their own legal representation. Perhaps FOE should reimburse the local residents group (if they have not already?). The Judgement is very clear.

      And this won’t be the last time FOE dupes people into believing they can overturn a planning approval.

      • Looks to me like the emissions and climate change issue, which FoE were challenging on, was fudged by the hearings. That makes this case more interesting. The calculated gamble must have been about the need to take the emissions/carbon budget into account as a ‘material consideration’. The matter was more or less dismissed as having been dealt with earlier. It wasn’t.

        Given that Britain is likely to miss its carbon target by miles, and the penalties involved will be substantial, it makes the action pursued by FoE less unreasonable. It may be worth their appealing this case. The more I look into the climate science and seeing the issues of runaway methane impacting northern hemisphere climate the more I’m convinced that willful ignorance of this subject is no longer on option for any civilized human being.

  5. The “site itself” is ALREADY operating, extracting gas, and has been for many years. This planning application is all about maximising the gas extraction from an existing site, feeding into an existing power plant. The existing sites were established many years ago, and have operated since without any significant issues. Many locals have commented very positively about this.Environmentally, this is a very positive situation.
    Now we are told that extracting more gas from the site will be uneconomic before the test has actually been done, with nonsensical data suggested. Third Energy are owned by Barclays, they will have calculated what the probabilities are, but no one will know until the test is concluded.

    I have researched fracking across several continents, and what is very apparent is that each country and region has to be examined individually to find what is possible. Yet, here we see spurious information being taken from totally different situations to try and stop any examination in the UK.

    Comments about most of the population in UK are against fracking is total twaddle-most of the population of the UK have no idea what fracking is, and most would be surprised to know it has been underway for some time.

    Paul, I would suspect FOE have paid all costs of this case. They raise money by taking such action because they will rattle their tins and say they need more funds. After another couple of years, when horizontal fracking is established in UK, they will abandon their “foot soldiers” and find another issue to campaign on and keep their wagon connected to the gravy train. As I have posted before, I am not out to convince anyone, but DYOR.

    • I do wonder about your experience Martin, given that you immediately called Mike’s efficiency figure nonsense. It was quite reasonable.

      In response to both yours and Paul’s cynical view of those who criticise fracking, and as an outsider to both FoE and Greenpeace, I question you both on your responsibility towards local communities and climate change. If DYOR means ‘do your own research’ I am certainly one of those who has and I expect many in the community have as well.

      So what about all those non ‘foot soldiers’ that you just assume to brush aside so easily? Looking at the science of climate change, the history of emissions from the shale fracking industry and the fact the an aging turbine power plant running at 38% or less efficiency – meaning that its own emissions from incomplete combustion, NOx and other byproducts will be considerable, don’t you feel the least responsibility towards those issues? Dismissing protestors as cranks may be a bit of a sport for you but is that all you can do?

      • Burning natural gas or methane release only water vapour and C02. It doesn’t release Nitric Oixide and lead by products like burning coal oil or desiel fuel as you suggested in your comments. It is the cleanest fossil fuel. This is why human have been ‘flaring’ natural gas inside their living homes for many decades all around the world. Anti frackers often exaggerated about the air pollutants harms of flaring gas on fracking site and in power station and claim these actions are illegal. I must admit that I am guilt of flaring gas inside my home at least 1 hour everday (except when I eat out or take away) and 10 -12 hours during the winter days. Like many others I live about half a meter from these flaring gas site within my home and had no permit to flare this gas on site inside my home and now worries that the anti fracking brigades will sue me for all the harms of flaring gas on site inside my home.
        Obviously the basis of their legal argument to sue me is the systemic evidence of harms from flaring gas inside my home have not been evident over decades of common practice of flaring gas inside the home on tens of millions of people in the UK and around the world but as they argue that precautionary actions must be taken as the evidence of harm may take a fews hundreds of millions of years to emerge. Similar to the basis they provide that fracking is systematically contaminated drinking water sources even though after nearly a million wells have been fracked and produced gas over the past 2 decades and fracking causes cancers and other illness to anyone who is exposed to it even though tens of thousands workers on fracking sites have shown any clustering evidence of these illnesses. But like the anti frackers said “It won’t happen overnight or over the next millions of years but it will happen”.
        I am sure I heard this before. Maybe it was from an commercial ad for women shampoo on TV promising shiny hair. By Rachel Hunter the super model ex wife of Rod Stewart if memory is correct.

  6. I understand what you’re saying and in an ideal world what comes out of the shale would be pure methane. But it is never pure. Can you smell your gas at home if you just open a nozzle without lighting it? If so then it’s not pure methane (which is odorless) although sometimes a harmless smell is added to pure methane to make sure leaks don’t go unnoticed. And don’t forget there’s nitrogen in air which gets enmeshed in the combustion process (inside turbines) so NOx and various byproducts are produced from less than perfect combustion. There’s quite a good breakdown here on gas turbine generators:

    Nobody is going to sue you obviously for burning methane in your home and I’ve not argued that natural gas production should be stopped in it’s tracks – just that the new business of onshore hydraulic fracking is something Britain can do without. People seem possessed by the idea that there’s no other way ahead.

    • Phillip. Noone doubt there are many ways ahead in term of energy sources and security. But all need to be evaluated economically environmentally sustainably and reliably in its natures. As with extreme frackers who thinks fracking is the best solution the extreme Green think renewables are the only way ahead. They are against natural gas from fracking using the premise of climate change and environmental issue to snubb out a potential of new energy sources only because of market revenue rather than other noble causes that the movement carry. If this is their worry that renewables will not take place in the futures then they are pretty daft. Or anyone for that matter. The world has moved on from fossil fuel next generation are fully aware of climate change issues its pro and cons. Everyone agree on sustainable green energy. Hell even the big oil companies admit and catch on to renewables. It is however the pace and the economic and technical and reliabilty imitations that are constraint factors for full on 100% renewable uptake. The one that push the renewables uptake 100% are either foolish about its technical and engineering limitations or their real agenda is subsidies profit to get quick return for their involvement or investment just as the shale industry investors or any other investments so that they can enjoy their profit in their life time. I have no doubt within 10 to 15 years we will have 1/2 of population take up electric cars and renewable energy of some sorts.

      • We urgently need to reduce our greenhouse emissions, to prevent catastrophic climate change, hence the remaining fossil fuels should remain in the ground. It is the oil and gas industry and nuclear, that have received billions in subsidies, from production to the point of sale: A lot of energy is required to get oil and gas out, by high-pressure slick water, hydraulic fracturing. This energy coming from diesel, which powers the high pressure pumps and other auxiliaries. Then, there is the need to purify the gas, to make it fit for the national grid. Someone posted, people are flaring gas at home, this obviously not the case, as they are burning almost pure methane, plus a mercapton to make it smell. At Knapton, they may be burning raw gas, but I doubt that, because of the damage that could be caused by the foul gases present. All thermal power stations, including nuclear, the main loses arise through power train and heat losses. Resulting in power plant efficiencies of around 30 -35%. The efficiency of the plant,can be improved, if the waste heat is utilised, such as in Combined heat and power plants (CHP) and district heating. Unfortunately, in the UK, little has been done to introduce district heating systems, or even to substantially improve the energy efficiency of buildings. Time is running out fast, to reduce our emissions, but our politicians are constantly failing to take action on the issue.

        • Patrick – we are clearly doomed then. I might as well go and open a decent bottle of wine and wait for the catastrophe to happen? Perhaps if I empty my wine fridge quickly this catastrophic climate change will be avoided?

          I assume you are another who does not own a car, does not use public transport, does not fly anywhere, boils your kettle in a solar oven, doesn’t use any of the thousands of products in every day life made from hydrocarbons, is off grid and has a cow farting to produce and capture methane to keep your house warm.

          Time is running out fast…. maybe, or maybe not, but whatever the UK does or does not do makes no difference globally.

          By the way, do you have a pension or pension plan. Does it hold Shell or BP in the portfolio?

          • You are correct, I do not drive and nevr have done, not even a moped. I walk and cycle and occasionally use public transport. I last flew in 2007, when I visited Sabah with the WWF, to witness the devastation caused by Palm oil plantations, in 2007. I used a green electricity (Greenenergy UK), eat organic foods, basically I have a small carbon footprint. This has not meant, I have a poor standard of living, but I have a good quality of life which does not impact negatively on others. Your childish response, is typical of those, who are only concerned about themselves and no one else, even those who are parents.

            • So I was correct for a change. Admirable and good luck. But my point is still valid that even if we all (in the UK) switched to your choice of lifestyle it will make no difference. I fully agree with you on the palm oil and it is many years since we have knowingly eaten products containing palm oil. You will appreciate how difficult this is if you purchase food from shops. We are also pretty much organic, keep bees, eat our own honey, plant meadows on public land etc etc. I was brought up in Singapore in the 60’s and was lucky enough to see the East Coast of peninsular Malaysia before palm oil – it was jungle then. Sabah is a disaster, I assume you also went to Sepilock – we were there in the 1990s and there was very little forest left. I worked in Ghana a few years ago – also full of palm oil now.

              I do wonder about Ecotricty / Greenenergy UK etc. how they can assure people they are receiving their green electricity? What goes into the grid isn’t what comes out. But we are lucky we can make these choices. I have used OVO for many years but they are no longer competitive – 25% price hike. Ecotricity were about 50% higher than EON who we are with for the next 12 months. we can’t afford to be too green.

              It is good to see there is someone on this BB who practices what he preaches. Apologies in triplicate.

              • ‘we can’t afford to be too green’.

                I thought you could command £1500 per day. If this is true then you could afford green energy.

                The Germans pay more for renewable energy as the majority have agreed it is the right decision.

                Fracking aside

                Saying it will make no difference is a defeatist attitude.

                Rome was not built in a day.

                We have legally bindings targets to keep under 2 Degrees for the benefit of everybody.

                We all need to do our bit and encourage others to do their bit.

                At some point all those bits make a difference.

                The world has recognised climate change. We all know the consequences. We all must act.

                • John – I think you are the only anti shale gas person on this BB who want to see fossil fuel taxes reduced (or subsidies increased as tax reductions appear to be classed as subsidies on this BB). How will this help the great renewables drive – other than make gas even more competitive and more will be burnt inefficiently? All the anti industry groups – WWF, FOE, Greenpeace etc. are writing to the Government asking them to increase North Sea taxes? It would appear that the only thing you are interested in is stopping shale gas onshore UK because it will impact you personall? Why not just say that?

                • You are correct, day rates were very good. Probably not now due to the drop in the oil price. But I am retired so do not know what the market rate is. There are 120,000 job losses in UK in the industry, and less than 10 North Sea exploration wells in 2016 I believe. So not much going on offshore. How would I get my green energy if I paid for it? What goes into the grid isn’t what comes out at my house? I could go like Sherwulfe, off grid. I have thought about this – I could use oil / LPG / hydro / solar / wind / ground source / air source etc. But I am happy with the way things are, as long as my supply of electricity and gas is not disrupted by too much renewables in the system.

                • “The myth that the North Sea is finished is absolutely that. It’s a wrong myth,”

                  Output rising and prices dropping

                  Every extra barrel from the North sea means 1 less barrel of imported LNG.


                  Home grown reliable secure conventional gas whilst we move on with energy saving and trying to follow and exceed the German renewable model.

                  And 1 more time from BP

                  “The myth that the North Sea is finished is absolutely that. It’s a wrong myth,”

                  Anyone like to suggest BP are talking bollocks?

                • “Every extra barrel from the North sea means 1 less barrel of imported LNG.”

                  No it doesn’t. You are mixing up oil and gas.

                  BP are going to double production from what to what? 100,000 to 200,000 bopd. Mostly mature fields – but still positive. But hardly a huge increase in north Sea production.

                  What is more interesting and relevant to this BB is “Earlier this week, BP announced that drilling had started on a potential carboniferous gas play in the southern North Sea.”

                  When I worked in the North Sea in the early’80s we drilled a few carboniferous test wells in the southern north sea, but none were commercial. Seismic has come a long way since then so perhaps there will be a new gas play opening up? Cluff is trying to sell a similar concept in the central north sea. These plays extend onshore UK.

                  But is a new fossil fuel play acceptable just because it is offshore?

                  Probably same age gas as in Yorkshire which we are discussing?

            • That’s great and fine. But what right do you have Patrick to impose your choice on other people ? And base on what evidence do you think it is the right choice for the rest of us. Cuba maybe a better country for your ideal life style as they have no industry and small population.

  7. I would suggest that some people need to consider what the energy price situation would have been over the last decade without fracking. Oil at around $100/barrel I would suspect, simply because alternatives would not have been capable of filling the gap, and if this had been so, what would have been the level of deaths caused by that? Fuel poverty is still an issue, together with energy security and a headlong switch into alternatives is not the answer. Any such switch should be measured and proportionate. Millions of solar panels being made in China using huge amounts of filthy coal energy is not that, neither is processing maize and wheat for fuel when much of the world suffers famine. Or wind farms that are switched off when there is too much wind and do not operate when there is none.
    So, my pension pot will include investment into lithium, but a return on that is probably 10 years away. Meanwhile, I have an interest in being able to turn up the thermostat when needed, and would like many less fortunate to be able to do so without fear.

    • Lucky for you the North sea has enough home grown gas to keep you warm and snug for decades. Output up and prices down.

      Have you written your letter yet to the Government to reduce the crippling tax regime.

      As you don’t understand renewables you really should push the North sea as you say you are concerned that fuel poverty is still an issue.

  8. The deliberate “confusion” of data seems to be a problem to those objecting against fracking. If it continues, it might convince one or two, but not a planning process or the courts.

    Mike clearly stated that 60% of the energy in the gas was used to get it out of the ground. That is what I was correcting, as it clearly is not the case.

    The efficiency of Knapton is a separate issue. I would suggest that more efficient processing of any gas will be an unlikely investment until the operators can establish whether they can extend/expand the life of the plant through securing more gas, or a longer lifespan. I can not imagine any business not doing that type of calculation.

  9. Nick Grealy says ‘60%? How? And compared to taking gas out of the ground in Qatar, Arctic Norway, Siberia, US and them transporting it? Fracking itself, the actual pumping, only takes an hour or so for each stage. After that, little,if any artificial lift is needed, liberated gas molecules rise naturally.
    martin collier says ‘I suggest you do a little research, Mike. I really do not think such nonsense engineering/physics will fool many.’
    And ‘Mike clearly stated that 60% of the energy in the gas was used to get it out of the ground. That is what I was correcting, as it clearly is not the case.’
    I was referring entirely to the issue of energy efficiency, which is an absolutely vital part of energy policy, irrespective of whether you are pro or anti fracking. Martin, I have been doing a great deal of research for approaching 4 years now. Consequently, I can’t remember the source of the ‘60% of energy recovered from fracking used to recover it’, but it seems highly plausible, given the massive amount of wellpad preparation, drilling, water transported and waste water treatment, processing and transport of gas etc, compared to the rapid drop-off of gas from a well after fracking – which is why thousands of wells are needed as new ones have to be constantly drilled as old ones cease to produce commercial quantities. Surely you know this Nick? That’s why I asked if anyone had sound figures – which of course the nay sayers won’t like to provide. The relative cost of production between various types of hydrocarbon production (conventional gas & oil, tar sands, fracking etc) gives another very similar pointer to this energy equation i.e. the harder it is to extract, the more costly/less economical it becomes. Pointless glib comments are far easier to provide. Electricity transmission losses will be in the region of 25% – easily checked, but dependent on how far the electricity is moved around the grid. The important figure of 30% efficiency of this generator comes from an official report commissioned by Viking, the previous owner of the plant, from around 10 years ago – so it could be even less now.
    Do you believe we can keep developing new sources of hydrocarbons (or any other energy source come to that) and wasting up to 90% of it, mainly in the form of heat into the atmosphere? How will that extra heat and energy in the atmosphere manifest itself? (You may have noticed the increase in frequency and intensity of storms and associated flooding, combined with droughts elsewhere) How much longer can we continue to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, along with fugitive methane emissions? Do you believe that energy efficiency is vital for our future needs, in that we must efficiently use a much greater proportion of what we generate? Do you think we would need to generate much less power if we used it efficiently and wasted less heat through inefficient insulation? Do you believe that man made climate change is a reality that is already affecting every one of us, or is it just a hoax by over 98% of the experts, backed by every country in the world? Would you like to contribute to a meaningful debate or just make glib and pointless comments?

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