Regulation

“Third Energy failed to carry out proper monitoring at Yorkshire fracking site” – new report

171014 KM KMPC

Third Energy’s KM8 well at Kirby Misperton, 14 October 2017. Photo: Kirby Misperton Protection Camp

Third Energy should be denied consent to frack in North Yorkshire because it failed to carry out monitoring correctly, Friends of the Earth said this morning.

The company is waiting for a final consent from the Business Secretary, Greg Clark, to frack the KM8 well in Kirby Misperton.

But a report commissioned by Friends of the Earth concluded:

“Consent for hydraulic fracking should not be given until these matters are resolved”.

The report by an independent hydrologist reviewed Third Energy’s groundwater monitoring data for the Kirby Misperton. It said:

  • Third Energy has not carried out groundwater tests correctly for a full 12-month period as required by law
  • Only three out of 24 monitoring rounds fully met the requirements of the company’s environmental permit
  • There were high levels of methane in a nearby aquifer
  • The data did not explain whether these high levels were linked to Third Energy’s use of a nearby well for waste water disposal

Third Energy said in a statement it would demonstrate there had been no failure to carry out monitoring in accordance with its environmental permit. It rejected the link between methane levels in groundwater and its operations. (see full statement)

Guy Shrubsole, of Friends of the Earth, said:

“This report will make alarming reading for the Secretary of State – he can’t grant fracking consent when the fracking firm have not properly carried out pollution monitoring, nor explained why nearby groundwater is so polluted with methane.

“We are constantly assured that the UK’s supposedly gold standard regulations will prevent any problems from fracking – but the industry doesn’t seem to be complying.

“It’s another reason why fracking should not go ahead in England, and we should follow Scotland’s recent example by banning it.”

Leigh Coghill, of Frack Free Ryedale, said:

“Local residents at Kirby Misperton will be very disturbed to read about these multiple failures in the regulatory system, even before fracking has begun. Third Energy appear to have broken the law in their failure to provide adequate groundwater monitoring data, and we call for the site to be shut down immediately while this is investigated.”

“Monitoring did not comply with environmental permit”

The Friends of the Earth report from H Fraser Consulting analysed documents submitted to the Environment Agency and available online here.

Third Energy carried out 21 monitoring rounds from February 15 to September 2016 and a further three in April, May and June 2017.

According to the Friends of the Earth report, the first 21 rounds were inadequate to fulfil the requirement of the environmental permit.

The final three monitoring rounds analysed the full range of substances but this was too short a time to illustrate baseline conditions at the wellsite, the report said. They did not reflect the highest stream flows and groundwater levels in the winter or the lowest in the summer.

The report also noted that five boreholes, drilled for groundwater monitoring at the KMA well site, were not included in the first 14 monitoring rounds.

Methane groundwater monitoring

Government legislation, incorporated into the Petroleum Act 1998, requires 12 months of monitoring of methane in groundwater before fracking can be carried out.

The Friends of the Earth report found that the number of samples for methane monitoring varied at different locations around the wellsite. It said:

“There is not a complete record of 12 months monitoring of dissolved methane in groundwater across the monitoring network.”

It concluded that the baseline monitoring did not comply with the Petroleum Act.

High concentrations in aquifer

The Friends of the Earth analysis also found very high concentrations of dissolved methane in the Corallian aquifer.

It said data from Third Energy did not establish whether the methane was naturally-occurring or linked to the injection of produced water from the neighbouring KM3 well.

Third Energy response

A statement from Third Energy said:

“The matters raised in this press release are the subject of pre-action correspondence between FoE and the Environment Agency, in which Third Energy is an interested party.

“Third Energy is confident and will demonstrate that there has been no failure to carry out monitoring in accordance with its environmental permit. As a responsible operator, Third Energy makes every effort to adhere to all regulatory requirements, and will continue to do so.

“Third Energy has seen the “new report” to which FoE refers, and rejects as unfounded any speculation as to a linkage between methane levels in nearby groundwater and other operations by Third Energy in the vicinity.

“Third Energy works closely with its regulators to ensure all baseline and ongoing monitoring is conducted in accordance with its permissions. The EA regularly reviews and visits our sites with planned and unannounced inspections and has to be satisfied that all baseline and ongoing monitoring is compliant with its permits and conditions. In addition, the British Geological Survey is leading an environmental baseline monitoring programme in the Vale of Pickering and has real time monitoring in four borehole sites and a network of 25 groundwater sites and 10 stream sites.”

20 replies »

  1. Garry. You make some fair points, firstly that subsurface fracking is a side issue. It is even a red herring here because this well hasn’t been fracked yet, and the proposed fracking (to come) is a very minor affair – vertical only with five short perf zones. There’s some understandable local nervousness however . If gas flows are good from those test zones the sale of Third Energy to a bigger operator would probably follow with a ‘you ain’t seen anything yet’ scenario: multi-well pads, relentless drilling, fracking, flaring, trucking etc. Then if there are high levels of methane (to be substantiated) in local aquifers arising from disturbances so far, and if baseline monitoring has been substandard then than is surely not going to allay concerns.

    Quite a chunk of what you say I don’t get at all. eg. “Well decline rates for unconventional and conventional are actually remarkably similar”. Are you talking about gas? The decline curves for shale gas from HVHF show that 50-60% of the recoverable gas is gone in the first year year or two, unless they get into the dark art of choking the flows and eking things out that way. I cant imagine those output characteristics (see graph) being anything like conventional – which is about tapping into huge reservoirs. Then to build up continuous output from shale formations they have to keep drilling and drilling until you get 100s of wells marching across the country (wherever the shales go). You go on to say “they produce on average nearly 3x the amount of hydrocarbons per project”. I don’t get that either… are you comparing 100 unconventional gas wells with one conventional, or 1000?

    • Phil P
      The article ‘Shale Gas Decline Curves Demystified’ is interesting.
      Especially as it speaks to the cash received by land owners amongst other things ( such as 4 wells per sq mile).

      But, as I understand, the decline curves for conventional gas and frack gas are similar. More similar than for oil.
      Just that you get less gas per Well from Shale in the US.

      Hence, for a given production target, you need more wells.

      That’s in the US. I guess we would expect something similar in the UK, p,us import all that learning that has been going on over there.

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