North Yorkshire resists industry pressure to adopt government fracking definition

NYCC meeting 170307

North Yorkshire plans to use a different definition of fracking than the government, despite lobbying by the shale gas industry, it emerged today.

The county, which is likely to see fracking this year, approved the final wording of its joint minerals plan, setting planning policy until 2030.

Opponents of fracking feared the council would adopt the definition used in the Infrastructure Act, even though it didn’t have to.

The act defines associated hydraulic fracturing by the volume of fluid used. For an operation to qualify, there must be at least 1,000 cubic metres of fluid per fracking stage or a total of 10,000 cubic metres for all fracking stages.

The definition excludes Cuadrilla’s fracturing of the Preese Hall well in 2011, which caused two small earthquakes.

The Oil and Gas Authority said an example using the fluid volumes quoted in the planning application for fracking at Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire would also not qualify as associated hydraulic fracturing under the Infrastructure Act. Third Energy says it is inaccurate to say the Kirby Misperton frack would not meet the definition (see footnote at the end of this piece).

Today, the council stood by its wording, confirming that the following definition would remain:

“For the purposes of the Plan ‘hydraulic fracturing’ includes the fracturing of rock under hydraulic pressure regardless of the volume of fracture fluid used.”

Oil and gas companies INEOS, Third Energy and Egdon Resources, along with the services company, the Zetland Group, and the industry representative body, UKOOG, all urged the council to adopt the Infrastructure Act definition.

INEOS said the plan’s definition of fracking left it “unsound”. Egdon said the plan was “inconsistent with the statutory framework”. The Zetland Group said there was “a need for consistency with the Infrastructure Act”.

Egdon, INEOS and UKOOG said the plan’s definition would “severely restrict” or “severely limit” unrelated and existing activities.

Amendments being considered by the executive today included a reference to the Infrastructure Act definition.

Leigh Coghill, of the campaign group, Frack Free Ryedale, told the meeting this definition was a “significant loophole for the shale gas industry”.

It would allow fracking that didn’t meet the fluid limit to be carried out in protected areas, such as the North York Moors National Park and the Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, she said.

Cllr Mike Potter, of Ryedale District Council, asked:

“Which hard evidence informed the definition that ‘the injection of less than 10,000 cubic metres of fluid in total’ was not really fracturing with water?”

Rob Smith, of the council’s planning department, said the current definition in the plan still stood.

He said “The amendments are to clarify differences between conventional and unconventional drilling.”

“We need a plan”

The eight-person executive voted unanimously to sign-off the plan, despite calls for more public consultation.

Cllr Chris Metcalfe, the executive member with responsibility for the plan, conceded

“It will not meet the needs of everybody but it is a plan.”

He said it was a “fluid document” and the council would continue to review but he said:

“As far as this plan is concerned we have gone as far as we can”.

He said it should now go before a planning inspector for approval.

After the meeting, Cllr Mike Potter, of Rydedale District Council, welcomed the promise to review the plan.

“It is hard to dispute that we have to have a plan. If we don’t, everything goes to the government and the energy department.”

Other key issues

Buffer zones

The plan requires oil and gas developments in areas 3.5km from National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty to assess their impact on the designated landscapes.

Egdon said there was “no justification in planning policy grounds” for the 3.5km buffer zone. INEOS said it was “not supported or justified by national policy”. It added:

“There is no need for a buffer zone and it artificially restricts development where mechanisms already exist to afford protection to sensitive areas.”

Third Energy said:

“An arbitrary ‘buffer zone’ takes no regard of the temporary nature of any drilling and/or associated activity.”

Opponents of fracking welcomed the buffer zone but some said it should be wider and should apply to other protected areas.

Setback distances

The plan says hydrocarbon developments within 500m of residential buildings and what it calls “sensitive receptors” would be approved only exceptional circumstances.

The oil and gas industry also opposed this policy. In its comments on the plan Egdon wrote:

“There is no evidence that proposals for surface hydrocarbon development within 500m of residential buildings and other sensitive receptors are likely to have more adverse impact than proposals in excess of this distance.”

It added:

“The effect of screening and the specific nature of the proposed hydrocarbon development can often mean that distances of 300m are permissible.”

But Peter Allen, an opponent at today’s meeting, said:

“I can find no rationale for this distance. I have been told that 500m represents the acceptable distance between a dwelling and a wind turbine.”

He said Rob Arnott, of the Oxford Institute of Energy Studies, had told a meeting in Easingwold that 500m was the safe distance if the well were to explode. But Mr Allen said the minimum distance for evacuation zones in the US for well explosions was half a mile or 804m.

Mr Allen said:

“This plan is to last until 2030. In that time, if the industry is allowed to develop as it hopes many more areas will be covered by PEDLs. It will not sit easily with the inhabitants of Harrogate, Ripon, Thirsk, Northallerton and others that in 2017 their councillors deemed 500m as a suitable distance between their communities and unconventional gas wells.”

Another speaker, Susan Allen, said:

“There should be greater setback distances for schools, hospitals and old people’s homes. Children and the over 65s are more vulnerable to pollution than other adults. The executive might also like to consider other areas crucial to the local economy, such as major tourist attractions and racing stables.

“No planning application should be accepted unless there is a comprehensive evacuation plan in place which is subject to regular rehearsal.”

Well density

The plan proposes a maximum density of 10 well pads per 100 sq km. But Cllr Paul Andrews, a Ryedale District councillor, said this was inconsistent with policies in the adopted Ryedale Plan on protection and enhancement of landscape character. Cllr Andrews proposed reducing well density to 10 pads per 1,300 sq km.

He also criticised the minerals plan for failing to include the Vale of Pickering and Yorkshire Wolds as areas where hydraulic fracturing would not be permitted. This, he said, also made it inconsistent with the Ryedale Plan.


Planners had made 29 amendments to the published version of the plan and there were calls for a new consultation on the changes.

Cllr Mike Potter said it was “quite apparent that INEOS and Third Energy have had quite a major impact”.

But the executive approved the changes and gave council officers and the executive member responsibility for rewriting some sections.


NYCC opponents of mineral plan

Opponents of fracking outside North Yorkshire County Council

Jim Trotter, who spoke at the meeting, said:

“The plan in its current form will not be effective in protecting residents from the many serious negative impacts resulting for the development of this industry across North Yorkshire. It lacks specifics in a number of areas and leaves too much room for future argument and policy creep in the future. This is something the industry will exploit and the council will live to regret.”

Sue Gough, of Frack Free Kirby Misperton, said there was ambiguity in the plan and this would result in fracking near schools and close to homes. She said:

“The industry will exploit any weakness”.

Brian Appleby said there multiple gaps in the regulation of shale gas and fracking and this would be exacerbated by inexperienced regulators.

John Clark, a county councillor with oil and gas licences in his Pickering ward, said:

“If you want to stop fracking the only way to do it is to change the government.”

But he urged the executive to look “a little deeper” into the plan.

Another local councillor, Elizabeth Shields, who represents Norton, said:

“The executive is following government policy. There does not seem to be a single member of the executive who was going to fight for the residents of North Yorkshire.”

Footnote on fracking, volumes and the Infrastructure Act

In January 2016, DrillOrDrop made a Freedom of Information request to the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA). We asked whether the volumes of fracking fluid used in a real life example would amount to associated hydraulic fracturing.

The volumes were: Stage 1: 424.90 cubic metres; stage 2: 441.80 cubic metres; stage 3: 474.90 cubic metres; stage 4: 700.60 cubic metres; stage 5: 1,248.90 cubic metres (total 3,291.10 cubic metres).

The figures were taken from the planning application to frack the KM8 well at Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire.

In its reply, the OGA set out the definition of associated hydraulic fracturing from Section 50 of the Infrastructure Act 2015 as below:

4B Section 4A: supplementary provision

(1) “Associated hydraulic fracturing” means hydraulic fracturing of shale or strata encased in shale which–
(a) is carried out in connection with the use of the relevant well to search or bore for or get petroleum, and
(b) involves, or is expected to involve, the injection of–
(i) more than 1,000 cubic metres of fluid at each stage, or expected stage, of the hydraulic fracturing, or
(ii) more than 10,000 cubic metres of fluid in total.

The OGA gave this response to DrillOrDrop’s question:

i) Although stage 5 would exceed the 1,000m3 threshold specified in sub-section 4B(1)(b)(i), stages 1 through 4 would not meet or exceed the 1,000m3 threshold and condition 4B(1)(b)(i) would therefore not be met.

ii) The total volume injected would not exceed 10,000m3 and condition 4B(1)(b)(ii) would therefore also not be met. As neither of the two conditions is met, the example provided would not qualify as associated hydraulic fracturing.

This is the basis of the information in paragraph 6 of this post.

Third Energy said the reference in paragraph 6 to its Kirby Misperton well was inaccurate. The company asked DrillOrDrop to delete the reference and not repeat it.

The company said the volumes of fracking fluid would not be finalised until the fracture plan had been submitted for the KM8 well.

It said the answer from the OGA could not be applied to the KM8 well because in its question, DrillOrDrop did not mention the name of the well.

Third Energy also referred to guidance from the Department of Energy and Climate Change which said the Secretary of State intended to require companies to seek hydraulic fracturing consent for any operations which used more than 1,000 cubic metres of fluid at any single stage but not 10,000 cubic metres in total.

Link to Freedom of Information request to the OGA

Updated 9/3/2017 to include Footnote and text changes to paragraph 6

20 replies »

  1. Well done to all those members of the public that spoke. How shallow the industry sound arguing about reducing setbacks and wishing to frack close to protected areas. And well done for exposing the government’s proposed U turn that would allow fracking in protected areas.

  2. We all knew that the definition of fracking by volume of water was a means of being able to deny that fracking was taking place. This was a typical example of the government setting up legislation for the benefit of the industry and against the interests of public. Well done North Yorkshire for taking the sensible approach. (Of course the government will say this definition was set at EU level, but we all know that the primary influences were from the UK.)

  3. We had CONVENTIONAL OIL DRILLING at Balcombe! It was the protestor’s who lived and came to the Village who called this operation FRACKING! It was never going to be FRACKING as stated in letter’s to resident’s in may 2013…but the protestor’s,who ruined/divided Balcombe Village chose to ignore this letter and carried on protesting FRACKING! Oh dear.

  4. “He said it should now go before a planning inspector for approval.”

    Which means the “plan” has to be seen to mesh coherently with, and within planning law, with national planning law / guidelines etc. It will be interesting to see what happens.

    From my perspective as having worked in the upstream industry for many years the Infrastructure Act definition is incorrect and should be revised to much lower volumes. However the NY definition is also incorrect as this will preclude several routine drilling operations including leak off tests at casing points which can be a significant part of well control / blow out prevention. Unfortunately the Infrastructure Act will probably be deemed part of Planning Law by the Inspector.

    The setback distances will probably be rejected although one or two districts did manage to get evidence based setback distances in their local plans for wind farms.

  5. A field day for the legal profession. They gain, the tax payer will lose, if the planning inspector does not remedy. Meanwhile, food banks will be doing well. Interesting times.

  6. You seem to have a fixation upon assumption, refracktion. Can not see one word about “poor and needy” in my text. Maybe you really believe that it is only the poor and needy who frequent food banks? Suggest you speak to a few GPs about that, if that is the case.

    First rule for negotiating. If you assume, it makes an ASS out of U, not out of ME. (Also applies to other forms of discussion.)

  7. Totally untrue that there is no evidence of harms from fracking and related activities inside and up to 500m. The industry reveals its ruthlessness by denying the documented experiences of real people in US and Australia, and the peer reviewed scientific studies done so far on the incidences of ill-health round fracking well pads. In fact the evidence to date would indicate that 1km would be ‘safer’, and indeed that no fracking industry at all would safest in every respect. The industry itself has absolutely no evidence to show at what distance harms from fracking activities become significantly less, or that any one well will be ‘safe’. It contents itself with deriding and denying. We should be asking WHY they want to frack within 300m or 200m of human dwellings and WHY they are pushing to get fracking with a lower volume of water deregulated so that even beloved and protected areas are open hunting ground. Why do they want to up the density and spread of wells regardless?. Inviting the fracking industry, which is compelled by the nature of its ludicrous technology, the promises of wealth made to its investors, the huge debts they’ve already sustained, to work for the National or even Global interest, is like giving away your daughter as a bride to Dracula. Surely by now the Industry and the Government must clearly see that UK energy policy is shoddy and unworkable, and at its best (which is not happening at the moment) will take us to a 2.8C world of global catastrophe and economic breakdown? They must know that using substantial amounts of dodgy gas and nuclear to provide stability in the grid into the future is a plan that’s rapidly becoming obsolete (see the many well researched roadmaps and projects out there, and statements even from the National Grid) , and one that won’t bring them a safe or prosperous world by 2050.(losses to Global GDP of business as usual 2015-2050 estimated at USD75tr – UNDP Nov 2016) They must know that the UK fracking industry which might produce 10-15% of current UK gas consumption in about 10 years, will not save us from imports, from Russia or elsewhere if we continue to bulk out our energy provision with gas. They must know that the scope for further decarbonising of the UK power sector by using gas instead of coal is now very limited, and probably not the most cost effective way forward.(UKERC Oct 2016) They must know that, even in the current Gov energy plan, without CCS or other decarbonising technologies, gas in the UK as heating in buildings must start to be phased out from mid 2020s and be almost gone by 2050. (UKERC Oct 2016) There’s a lot of other things they must know by now, right down to the increasing acknowledgement within the science community that subsurface knowledge and modelling re fluid flows, induced seismicity etc, is not adequate to okay industrial scale fracking and fluid waste disposal, but this is enough of a rant for one day. It’s time we saw their denials for what they are, and stopped being deluded into thinking we need them or fracked gas in the national interest.

  8. Linda, please explain in detail what your plan is to produce energy to meet the needs of the UK without gas/nuclear.

  9. Linda, thanks, I feel I’m ranting sometimes but for exactly the opposite reasons, it feels to me like we’re going down a road where we become massively dependent on imports for our energy, that there ifs significant risk of rising fuel prices and increased energy poverty. The big question I’ve asked here many times, how do we generate electricity when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t blow? that’s a hugely important question, as important as climate change because if you can’t provide energy in those periods then that will have “catastrophic” effect on the health and wellbeing of people in this country.

    As an aside interesting, they drilled a smallish geothermal well about 10ft from the pavement of the High Street of my town, nobody turned a hair and indeed barely noticed. I know it’s different but it’s just fascinating how perceptions and reactions differ. I personally I think fracking is no more dangerous than many industrial activities, most of which I wouldn’t want within 100 metres of my house. However if nearby homeowners can reach a voluntary and amicable financial arrangement with the O&G companies then then that’s the way forward. In the USA of course (unlike the UK) you own the mineral rights below your land so having a well within 100 yards would mean a million dollar contract.

    Finally why is fracking a “ludicrous” technology when it’s reduced the price of oil and gas worldwide to the average person. Compared to say the recent Northern Ireland renewable energy debacle (and my particular Room 101, 50 different brands of breakfast cereal, all of which harm your health) fracking is really benign.

    • You mean the sun dont shine?? Well it is kind of true the sun do blow their burst of hot plasma that generates the sun rays. But normally we call it sun shine.
      Well the bottom line is 10% is real and ligit concern about the real risks related to the industry and the rest 90% are nimby together with vested interests in renewables coal offshore and opec who see shale as a serious competition to their market share and revenue and so they quip up and use sentiment anti capitalism activists EcoWarriors and local nimby to shut out their competition using fallacies of their arguments of potential risk. But in fact shale industry has very much the same if not better risks/benefits profile compared to many current and existed legal and socially acceptable industry and businesses.

    • To your first question re how to ensure a stable grid with renewables, we really do have all the technology. I am surprised that people don’t know that, as there is so much documentation out there, and so many tech sites on the internet assessing the various technologies.If you look at my reply to YouGottaBKidding above, there are links to several recent roadmaps to zero carbon by 2050 without gas (or very little) or nuclear. The obstacles aren’t any longer technological or even cost, but the will (political and individual) to implement. Some countries, states, communities, individuals are getting on with it, and there’s a lot of information out there about who is doing what. It does mean action and investment now to change direction, but the cost curves of Business as Usual and going for renewables and energy efficiency in buildings now to keep warming below 1.5C/2.0C, cross over at about 2030 and 1.5C wins out all the way. We have got a huge gas infrastructure in this country, but even under the UK Government plan, without CCS the use of gas has to diminish to almost nothing by 2050 so a just transition for the gas industry must start to happen mid 2020s. These challenges anyway pale into insignificance when you contemplate the loss of land, the crashing of global food production, and the mass migrations that the current trajectory of 2.8C – 4.0C warming will bring.

      Re the harms of industrial scale fracking – I have looked into that in detail over a number of years – and the thrust of peer reviewed studies and reports (about 880 to date with most post 2012) is that the harms are real and very serious. The most comprehensive reference for all of these is here, ‘ fully referenced compilation of the significant body of scientific, medical, and journalistic findings demonstrating risks and harms of fracking. Organised to be accessible to public officials, researchers, journalists, and the public at large, the Compendium succinctly summarises key studies and other findings relevant to the ongoing public debate about unconventional methods of oil and gas extraction. The Compendium should be used by readers to grasp the scope of the information about both public health and safety concerns and the economic realities of fracking that frame these concerns. The reader who wants to delve deeper can consult the reviews, studies, and articles referenced.’:

      Here’s also just one of the lists of the harmed from the US, a compilation of anecdotal evidence about individuals whose lives have been damaged by the fracking industry And here’s a presentation by a US Restoration Ecologist from Pennsylvannia

      • Linda – from a post yesterday:

        National Grid Future Energy Scenario forecasting 2016 edition. 2030 gas demand varies between 603TWh (Gone Green) and 808TWH (No Progression); 2015 it was 880TWH. Yes it is coming down, but only by 10% if you take the market driven examples (most likely). And No Progression and Consumer Power both include UK shale gas production.


        “Consumption of natural gas worldwide is projected to increase from 120 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) in 2012 to 203 Tcf in 2040 in the International Energy Outlook 2016 (IEO2016) Reference case. By energy source, natural gas accounts for the largest increase in world primary energy consumption. Abundant natural gas resources and robust production contribute to the strong competitive position of natural gas among other resources. Natural gas remains a key fuel in the electric power sector and in the industrial sector. In the power sector, natural gas is an attractive choice for new generating plants because of its fuel efficiency. Natural gas also burns cleaner than coal or petroleum products, and as more governments begin implementing national or regional plans to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, they may encourage the use of natural gas to displace more carbon-intensive coal and liquid fuels.

        World consumption of natural gas for industrial uses increases by an average of 1.7%/year, and natural gas consumption in the electric power sector increases by 2.2%/year, from 2012 to 2040 in the IEO2016 Reference case. The industrial and electric power sectors together account for 73% of the total increase in world natural gas consumption, and they account for about 74% of total natural gas consumption through 2040.

        Consumption of natural gas increases in every IEO region, with demand in nations outside the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (non-OECD) increasing more than twice as fast as in the OECD (Figure 3-1). The strongest growth in natural gas consumption is projected for the countries of non-OECD Asia, where economic growth leads to increased demand. Natural gas consumption in the non-OECD region grows by an average of 2.5%/year from 2012 to 2040, compared with 1.1%/year in the OECD countries. As a result, non-OECD countries account for 76% of the total world increment in natural gas consumption, and their share of world natural gas use grows from 52% in 2012 to 62% in 2040.”


        So if the EIA is remotely right for 2040 it will make no difference to global warming / climate change / 2deg rise or whatever it may be called in 2040 (or 2050) if the UK stops using gas tomorrow. Of course we won’t stop, and the National Grid appears to be only forecasting a 10% reduction by 2030 in the most likely scenario.

        And you have not provided an alternative, 100% renewable solution to replace our gas / nuclear. No one seems able to. It works in Norway with hydro (right geography, very few people, same with Costa Rica, also works in BC in Canada (note they are all hydro). It does not work in Germany and Denmark which are always roled out as the great green examples. And has Norway stopped producing oil and gas? Of course not, they export most of their production. “A new record for gas exports from Norway was set in 2016, according to a report by the Norwegian state-owned gas pipelines operator Gassco. Gassco said on Tuesday that, in 2016, 108.56 billion standard cubic meters (scm) were delivered within Gassco’s operatorship to Germany, Belgium, France, and the UK.” So Norway just sell the emmissions overseas…..

        No need to debate the issue, unless the global population suddenly reduces significantly and aspiring middle classes in India, China, SEA, Africa decide they don’t want electricity, air conditioning, heating, motor bikes, cars, TVs, Premier Leauge soccer, middle class life styles there will be no pure “green solution” for a very long time. And that’s what all the forecasts show, apart from perhaps “enemies of industry” etc…..

        • All I can say is you take a totally different attitude from me! Yes, I think we would both say that the UK and the world as a whole needs to act much much more quickly to avoid catastrophic 2.8C – 4.0C global warming, and it’s clear that without CCS or some other decarbonising technology, gas will have to disappear out of the global mix by 2050 to maintain to 1.5C and 2.0C global warming limit. However you seem to be saying that that’s not possible, and I am saying that there are well researched alternatives, and I did give reference to 4 expert road maps. Here they are again:
          The Solutions Project, Stanford Uni USA, 50 states and 137 Countries including the UK ;
          United Nations Development Program November 2016 Report ‘Pursuing 1.5C Limit: benefits and opportunities’—benefits-and-opportunities.html ; Greenpeace Energy [R]evolution 2015
          Zero Carbon Britain last 3 reports as follows:
          ‘Who’s Getting Ready for Zero?'(people and projects)
          ‘Zero Carbon Britain; Rethinking the Future (ie the technology)
          ‘Zero Carbon Britain, Making it Happen’ (social, political and economic barriers & how to overcome them)

          I am also saying, ‘we have to do this, because otherwise there is no tenable future, and we can do this and it presents a great opportunity’, and you seem to be saying, ‘nobody else is bothering so why should the UK try?’. However, you can’t put that out without saying as well, ‘but this will lead us to disaster: global economic breakdown, mass migrations, social collapse, collapse of global food production etc’.

          At this point we still have a choice. The technology is all there to move towards a 1.5C/2.0C world with renewables. (In fact,people are getting on with it much faster than you indicate, and much faster than the UK, plenty of evidence for that), and we need to be clear about the consequences of inertia or making the choice to stay with the large amounts of gas consumption you reference, without CCS or some other up and running gas decarbonisation technology.

Add a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s