Yorkshire fracking company receives official warning over incorrect emissions data

Knapton Generating Station

Third Energy’s Knapton generating station. Photo: DrillOrDrop

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.

Previous incidents

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.”


Compliance Assessment Report for Knapton Generating Station Jan 2017

Compliance Assessment Report for Pickering wellsite November 2016

Updated 20/6/2017 with statement from Third Energy requested on 18/6/2017

31 replies »

  1. Hewes62 – there is clear evidence that the risks cannot be managed satisfactorily. That’s why France and Germany and an increasing number of districts and even States in the US have fracking bans in place (there is a long drawn out dispute with Exxon over this in Germany).

    But to answer your question – those regions with fracking bans (for shale gas) are showing exemplary models of regulation. While the booming economics of the shale gas let the USA recalibrate its economic standing with OPEC and the rest of the world it is just like a sticking plaster. It won’t be sustainable and you have to consider the land area-to-population density that they have had in the States to mess with. Brits are very precious about their countryside and are sussed about these ridiculous denials over the matter of an industrialised landscape. There’s no avoiding the fact that you will be talking about a huge array of fracking wells (1000s) if getting anywhere near energy independence for the UK based on shale – but that’s what the politicians are being ‘sold’ on.

    Promoters are lying through their teeth when they say there are no risks to the environment. Clean air and water are a basic human right and it is only when the govt bends laws to sanction fracking then those badly affected will not be able stand up to the juggernaut to follow. They will not be able to sue the government and will just be sidelined and branded as cranks or nutters – as you see happening regularly on these threads.

    • Philip p
      Thanks. I was thinking about the present regulatory regime and existing onshore o&g production, but did not make that clear.
      Re promotors teeth, there will be a risk to the environment, and exactly how that will pan out drives the passionate discussions on D or D.

      In the back garden discussion ( warm night, red wine) the right to clean water and air was discussed. The consensus was that unless enshrined in some law, it’s not a right, you have to pay for it, or work hard to get it and / or keep it. But human rights got panned as well. There are no rights in nature, so why should we have any. What we have are as above, ephemeral and likely to evaporate in the face of environmental disaster. We are all 6 square meals away from anarchy.

      The discussion was informed by relatives who, in NZ, have what drops on the roof, or what a chap delivers in a tanker as their water supply. Hence, a lot more care and attention is paid to how you use it and make it potable.

      Clean air … goodbye petrol/diesel cars and hello electric. But forget the subsidy, cars will cost more, not go as far and someone has to build a few power stations to fuel them ( but in the round they will also store lots of renewable energy ). Hello driverless cars.

      • I’m sure you’re making some kind of points there Hewes62. Perhaps if you precis when sober I’ll be able to figure them out 🙂 . Good NZ wine?

        The rights to clean air and water are indeed enshrined in EU laws and UN resolutions. The principle is simple… say if you are in a community already with access to fresh air and water – which after all is what nearly all settlements throughout history rely on for sustainability and food security, then it is justifiable to restrict actions (by whatever interests) that would damage or deplete those naturally occurring resources.

        The move away from diesel and towards electric vehicles – via hybrid at least – is simply what’s happening (not sure of your point there). And I just can’t see the point of driverless cars (how many people do you know who are gagging for one?) unless you have and entire concept city-of-the-future based around them like Masdar near Abu Dhabi, but even there I think the novelty soon wears off.

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