The shale gas company preparing to frack in North Yorkshire breached one of its environmental permits by failing to publish correct emissions data, it has emerged.
Third Energy received an official warning from the Environment Agency for the breach, which concerned air quality data at the Knapton Generating Station in the Vale of Pickering.
The company was also criticised for failing to use an agreed method to monitor groundwater quality at a nearby gas well.
The incidents were uncovered by Frack Free Ryedale, a group which has campaigned for more than three years against plans by Third Energy to frack its existing well at Kirby Misperton.
The campaign group said the incidents called into question the trust local people could have in Third Energy.
Third Energy said there were “absolutely no impacts” on the environment and the Environment Agency reports showed that the regulatory system was working.
The Environment Agency (EA) visited the generating station on 31 January 2017. In a record of the visit, known as a Compliance Assessment Report, the EA said:
“On review of the 2016 stack emissions data at site it was evident that the monthly mean figures for the stack emissions were incorrect. Recalculation confirmed this, and the calculation error established. Reports have been resubmitted with revised figures.”
The EA said there was no evidence that Third Energy had breached the limit for emissions. But, issuing a warning, the EA added:
“Third Energy need to ensure that they have quality assurance in place on their emissions monitoring and are fully aware of the input parameters and calculations in their reporting software. There should be an auditable system in place.”
The EA recorded what is known as a level 3 breach of the permit. Level 1 is the most serious which could have a major environmental effect and level 4 the least serious with no potential environmental effect.
In the separate incident, the EA recorded that Third Energy’s contractor was not following the agreed method for monitoring groundwater boreholes at the Pickering wellsite.
While the method being used was acceptable, the EA said, it should have been approved first. Third Energy was advised to inform the EA in advance of any other differences between the permit requirements and the methodology in use.
In 2016, the EA recorded two breaches against Third Energy’s permit following a complaint to the company of a smell at the Malton wellsite. Third Energy should have reported the complaint to the EA within 24 hours but did not do so for more than two months.
In March 2017, people living in Kirby Misperton and Great and Little Barugh complained about “a sickening smell”. One home was evacuated and five people independently contacted gas suppliers, it was reported.
Third Energy said the smell was not a gas leak and was caused by routine cleaning at the Kirby Misperton well site. But a local councillor said Third Energy’s John Dewar told him the discharge was a mercaptan, a substance added to methane to give it a distinctive smell. Mr Dewar reportedly said he didn’t know the volume or duration of the discharge.
“How can the community trust this company?”
Russell Scott, of Frack Free Ryedale, said:
“After failing to inform local residents of gas leaks on multiple occasions, this company has now been caught issuing false air pollution figures. How can the local community trust this company when they repeatedly withhold information about the true picture of their activities?”
Ian Conlon, who lives in Malton, said the company had “deliberately” used a different scheme for monitoring water that had not been subject to public consultation.
“They treat our community with utter contempt then, with government backing, force fracking which is far more risky than conventional gas extraction.”
Third Energy response
A spokesperson for Third Energy said:
“Firstly, it is important to say that there have been absolutely no impacts on the environment.
“What these two reports demonstrate is the rigour of the EA and how their system of oversight works. Every small technical issue is identified, recorded and then required follow up action detailed. This information is published on the Environment Agency website and available to the public.
“Third Energy works closely with the Environment Agency to ensure its operations maintain environmental compliance at all times. The regulatory system is very detailed and every part of Third’s operations is subject to close scrutiny, particularly during regular site visits from the Environment Agency.”
Updated 20/6/2017 with statement from Third Energy requested on 18/6/2017