Third Energy investigates release from Kirby Misperton gas site after residents complain about “sickening” smell

Kirby Misperton

The company that wants to frack a well at Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire has apologised to people living nearby about a smell from the site last week.

Third Energy said today the smell was not a gas leak and it was investigating the cause.

One resident described it as a “horrid, sickening gas smell”. Frack Free Ryedale (FFR) said the odour was smelt up to two miles from the site and affected people in Little and Great Barugh, as well as Kirby Misperton.

One home was evacuated and five people independently contacted gas suppliers, the group said.

FFR criticised the company for failing to contact local people or a local liaison committee:

“Third Energy has failed to be the good neighbours they claim to be when it counts. This does not bode well with fracking, which is going to be far more disruptive for our community.”

The company said this morning it had quickly apologised to residents. It said:

“We can clearly state that there was not a gas leak and there were no health and safety issues.

“The odour was caused by the routine cleaning of the test separator on the well site. This is a standard operation and has been taking place at the KMA site every 1.5-3 years. The process cleans the test separator under safe and controlled conditions. Before cleaning, the separator is degassed and isolated from the rest of the system.

“The odour release and complaints by members of the public have been reported to both the Environment Agency and Ryedale District Council. Third Energy is currently investigating the release to identify measures to prevent it happening again.”


Part of the KMA wellsite in Kirby Misperton where Third Energy has permission to frack

The smell happened on Thursday 16 March. Four days later, a local councillor, Derek Chapman, met Third Energy’s John Dewar at the well site.

Cllr Chapman said:

“John Dewar claimed there was no leak, but then admitted to a mercaptan as the source. He didn’t know the volume or duration of the discharge.

“He said the discharge was caused by an error in the assumed capacity of the vacuum chamber. He said it was unlucky the wind was blowing in that direction.  Even though the smell was detected in 3 very different directions from the site, East, West, and North-West.”

Ian Conlan , of Frack Free Ryedale, said:

“At a time when one would expect Third Energy to be on their best behaviour in the run up to their test frack, Third Energy have shown once again their total disregard for the distress they are causing local people, by failing to inform them immediately of the source of this odour.

“”If this odour was not dangerous, why did Third Energy not contact the community liaison committee straight away? It was distressing for residents who did not know it was harmless, to know if it was safe to go outside or not.”

17 replies »

  1. Do you think that the smell may have been BS?

    Third Energy claim it was due to ‘routine cleaning’ and John Dewar claimed “the discharge was caused by an error in the assumed capacity of the vacuum chamber”. Perhaps they should meet up and compare their notes. If they can’t agree on routine cleaning matters, how can they be trusted with the Big Stuff? If this was routine and nothing untoward took place, why not warn the local residents of the likelihood of the smell in advance so that they would not have been so alarmed by the smell? Why would a smell created by routine cleaning be so important that the CEO had to visit the site to pass comment? I did not realise that CEO’s were so involved in cleaning matters.

    And best of all John Dewar said ” it was unlucky the wind was blowing in that direction” – would that have been the answer given if it was a gas leak? Better give the old Gold Standard regulations a quick polish eh!

    If the odour was due to cleaning of a Test Separator which had been ‘degassed and isolated from the system’ why was there a smell of mercaptan? Mercaptan is added to enable gas leaks to be detected. Why would Mercaptan be present in a isolated and degassed Test Separator?

    Yep, smells like BS.

  2. As they admit this is a standard operation and they will know exactly what size their separator tank is as they will have specified and had the kit installed on site. This is clear example of the so called “Best Practice in operations” that the EA and HSE are relying on because they are so poorly funded to initiate proper monitoring. I have seen this so often once the method statements have been approved. What are the real chances of them being adhered to all the time. This is construction and exploration so who is kidding who.

    • Point Of Interest, Jerry

      Also remember that when the industry refers to the words ” BEST PRACTICE ” this do NOT mean best available technology.

      (( The words ” best practice ” were used many times by the EA and a company that wanted to build an incinerator in the borough of Trafford. The terms they used to describe the quality of the particle filtration system was “best practice” but this was NOT the best available technology. ))

    • Jerry
      In many of the posts on this site, the EA and HSE are thought not to be monitoring the sites in an adequate manner.

      In the 1980s in the mining industry the inspector called around once every 2 months, or if anything untoward happened. They were not considered o be underfunded at that time.

      Given that level of regulation, what level of monitoring do people think is appropriate by regulator on a scale of

      ….Inspectors on site at all times downro to the level we have today at these sites?

      I.e. What do people think that a proper level of monitoring would entail?

      • This is a relatively new industrial process employing a diverse range of products many hazardous to achieve results. Mining is an old established industry in fixed long term locations where the individual managers were accountable. It took more than 100 years to get to the standard of monitoring you are talking about for a declining industry. Miners have a natural instinct for self preservation and it is a local community based industry so they can’t cut and run. HSE would be there to monitor and advise where it was needed and so were staffed appropriately. The EA were embryonic in the 80’s and i guess many watercourse pollution incidences were missed at that time. We are dealing with a different technology and mindset here and our country is no place to employ Yankee gung ho attitudes. My real concern is that the EA and HSE are not up to speed with the situation or have the experience to control the industry once/ if it gets established. Bear in mind that they are reactive regulators and as they say themselves rely on the observation of “Best Practice” not even best available technologies as a previous comment pointed out. Ok this may have been a small release of H2S who knows , but it reflects that the industry cannot get it right from the off when they know it is a sensitive issue with the locals. I know from my experience in cleaning up pollutants in the water industry it is a complicated expensive business. It leaves me with a very uneasy feeling for the future if this industry is allowed to run roughshod through our country.

        • Jerry. Thanks
          The incident relates to the existing gas process facilities which have been there a while I guess. But, yes, can the existing organisation upgrade itself from a local, low impact operation to a more complex one which carries more risk and is under intense media scrutiny. They will certainly get more regulator scrutiny as the ex mining inspectors move into onshore gas and the odd offshore inspector visits.
          Re the leak, sounds like a stenching agent, which you can smell in parts per billion, and hence does a good job. Similar leaks by BG in the past had similar outcomes. Hopefully we will Eventually find out, plus any actions to prevent recurrence.

  3. The EA & HSE should carry out a full investigation. How can anyone be sure this wasn’t a leak of sour gas which is toxic and foul smelling. Or the release of a dangerous chemical. Residents need to know exactly what the problem was, what they were exposed to and have the facts verified by independent regulators. People having to evacuate their home cannot be taken lightly and it cannot just be left to the contractor to say they will investigate to see how they can avoid it happening again. Something has clearly already gone very wrong, as odours like this should not be released into the environment. Locals should be demanding a full report.

  4. I live in Thornton le Dale and last week I was walking my daughter home from school when suddenly we were both overcome by a sickening, choking smell of gas. Both of us started hacking and our throats burnt. This persisted until we got back home and were able to get inside. I instantly thought of Kirby Misperton but dismissed the idea thinking we were too far away. Now it all makes sense.

  5. Oh give me a break. We have a tannery in our village and the smell from that can be absolutely terrible but we just get on with it.
    This event seems once every so often and on this occasion there were factors such as wind direction that made it worse.
    You lot really aren’t helping yourself by painting a picture of us upsetting your idyllic daisy smelling little bubble.

  6. For heavens sake, Farmers spray their fields with slurry, stinking the area around for miles all the time. BTW. I have no interests in Third energy.

  7. It seems that there are problems at every shale site. Does anyone have a log for every site? There were reports of ‘smells’ at Horse Hill, but when the EA turned up the next day (or was it later) they found nothing; one suspects the cause of the leak was quietly fixed and the wind did the rest. At Balcombe the EA stated they were advised by police that they shouldn’t enter the site because of the demonstrations, yet the demonstrators would have welcomed their arrival. Self regulation is not working and must not be allowed to continue

    • Malcolm. Ever heard of ‘teething problems’? We know you all want to stop fracking before it starts but your arguments are becoming ridiculous to the point that the avg man/woman will turn pro fracking simply due to your whining.

  8. Don’t seem to know what is a “shale site”-but then “self control” isn’t working and should not be allowed to continue.

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