“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. “New Report” ? From FoE? Have I missed something ? Has the dubious ‘charity’ turned into a government approved agency? Ah no didn’t think so. Lets just wait and see what the official verdict is first [Edited by moderator] It is all becoming a tad desperate on the anti side isn’t it? I think someone senses it’s game over and it sure ain’t my side 🙂 [edited by moderator]

    • Try the red pill GottaB[Edited by moderator]
      you only need one, but if such problems needs such an artificial stimulant to support the illusion of structural integral rigidity you better stick to the blue pills to feed the frantic illusions.
      But beware, if you take the red pill, all present self serving frackist illusions will be shattered and you will see the truth for once and for all, something to be feared apparently?
      However if artificially stimulated illusions are what is needed, the result is to be forever cognitively catatonic in a fake frackist illusion and Neo and friends will come kicking the artificial totalitarian tiptoe construct into the waste bin of history where it belongs.

  2. Hello unqualified GottaBKidding,
    In contrast, the consultant who did the “New Report” for FoE is a leading expert:
    Master of Science, Hydrogeology, Birmingham University
    Bachelor of Arts (Hons), Natural Sciences (Geology), Cambridge University
    Fellow of the Geological Society
    Chartered Geologist
    Qualified Person for Definition of Waste Development Industry Code of Practice
    British Standards Committee BS8485 Code of practice for the characterization and remediation of ground gas.
    Steering committee of CIRIA RP938 Remediating and mitigating risks from Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) vapours from land affected by contamination.

  3. GBK this is why everyone should be concerned, these gold standards mean nothing. Time and time again we see broken rules, sometimes this causes irreversible damage to our local environment. Also getting suspicious now of seeing in well pad photos a field of cows right next to the pad, we’re not stupid.

  4. Any more monitoring, together with flares, would only have frightened away the bats. FOE (Ltd?) should be pleased that it was not over done.

  5. Was the methane detected thermic (very unlikely) or biogenic (very likely)? A simple isotopic test would give an answer. Has anyone been concerned enough to check?

    Or is this being left to the BGS to find out?

  6. Well. I’m pro-fracking and I’d still like to know where the methane has come from. Obviously, there has been no response yet so everyone jumping on it as proof of anything doesn’t know what proof means. I look forward to reading the response and anything from the regulators. Then I’ll make my mind up.

  7. You raise a good point Jimbo. Problem is the isotopic tests are not that simple and distinguishing before-and-after (drilling/fracking etc) concentrations is a very complex matter. That’s why the monitoring needs to be so thorough. Many tests show higher concentrations of methane and related contaminants in groundwater the closer you get to gas wells. Oil and Gas Co’s usually fudge their way around those issues by pointing out that methane has always been pre-existing in the ground, which is true. The question is at what concentrations. Then when it is determined that the elevated methane readings come largely from biogenic methane (caused by microbial activity and relatively recent decomposition, as opposed to thermogenic methane from ancient deep underground deposits), they say ‘ah well, that’s nothing to do with us, we’re only dealing with the deep thermogenic methane’. But the fact remains that drilling through all layers of strata invariably disturbs deposits and pockets of trapped gasses. And there’s also the risks of frack fluids, deep gas and flowback seeps around poor cement jobs and casing joints etc.

    It is even possible that deep thermogenic methane could have seeped to higher levels (over time) prior to drilling. So there seems to be all kinds of ‘get outs’ for O&G regarding pre-existing conditions unless serious, accurate long-term measurements have been taken, which isn’t in their interests of course because it will clearly show the impacts. I’ve added a couple of links 1/ a study of the causal connections between gas wells and groundwater contamination and 2/ impact on a local community’s drinking water (culpability denied – as ever – by the gas and water companies) N.B. I’ve lost count of the number of accounts i’ve seen of this kind. It is simply implausible that these are all cranks and activists coming up with these stories.

    • It honestly feels more to me that the actual subsurface fracking part is a side issue. I’ve read some cases where I look at the wells and I’m just left wondering ‘what did they ever do that for?’, such as has been documented by Jackson, I.e. around Pavillion. When there is, in some instances, just 30m vertical separation distance between fracture zone and aquifer. When they have been fracking in shallow lenses where the separation from the aquifer and the hydrocarbon zone is lateral, not vertical, then it is a very different geological environment than large vertical, multiple strata, separation.

      The EPA reported at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, D.C. 2016 that:

      ‘[of] 23,000 hydraulically fractured wells in 30 states in 2010 more than 1,000 relatively shallow wells had no protective covering or just one casing and cement sheath. About two-thirds of all wells surveyed had uncemented portions’.

      2/3 of 23,000 wells had uncemented portions….

      1000 ‘relatively shallow wells had no protective covering or just one casing’….

      Its really hard to get to the bottoms of every twitter or facebook comment by an anti fracking campaigner – to try and track down the actual construction of the wells.

      With some it is easier, such as with Parker County or Pavillion.

      The EPA December 2016 paper – Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas: Impacts from the Hydraulic Fracturing Water Cycle on Drinking Water Resources in the United States – is still something of the big daddie. Its a wealth of information. There is very large variation in the types of shale plays and the well construction in different states. Such that it makes it very hard to interpret comments of the form ‘I’ve seen people saying their water was contaminated’, as well as of the type ‘paper X reported contamination of local well water’.

      As you say, and the paper you linked to, well integrity seems to be the issue. Therefore the argument really is about the number of wells. Well decline rates for unconventional and conventional are actually remarkably similar – on average. On average is the key, because if you compare excellent/non-average conventional wells with average unconventional then you get the wrong conclusion. Because shale is much more uniform than conventional reservoirs you drill less ‘dusters’ and because shale projects tend to be larger they produce on average nearly 3x the amount of hydrocarbons per project than average onshore conventional. This is why they are been able to so strongly affect the global oil price. But for this reason companies obviously see more possibility from their licenses/acreage and so want to drill more wells.

      It is perfectly possible to make the argument that the global oil and gas sector would have been better off if the US had not gone hell for leather with the number of wells they have drilled. Anti shale activists have tried to portray the activity as needing that number of wells just to keep up with well decline rates. That isn’t true. But it is the case that small companies fancying themselves as massive onshore companies decided that having smaller numbers of wells just wasn’t good enough. In the end of course they drilled enough to crash the entire global market.

      As you point out, the issue really is well integrity. During well construction (and drilling) it is pretty simple to determine if the well is sound. Well control itself requires this, and the UK is well drilled and its geological and sub-surface pressure environment well understood, since we’re not a large country and we’ve been drilling in the UK for decades. It is hard to comment on wells in the US as regards what it was like for the people drilling and constructing them and what errors were made due to lack of information while drilling etc. Things like this pile up and make it hard to interpret data where all that has happened is that researchers have gone to obvious places where locals have reported problems and sampled data and then only reported on their measurements and have been unable to comment on the actual well engineering, or the actual geology of the wells, or decisions made while drilling them and constructing them. But it is not hard to understand that all of this factors into well integrity, and that when the information is lacking in papers it is harder to translate how they might apply to the UK.

      I would say that only a small subset of the stories the activists try and spread even MIGHT apply to the UK. Obviously, if a waste pond leaked then that wouldn’t. It is hard to translate health data across if it is measuring a shale oil play using waste ponds and continuous flaring etc. Many of these sets of data do not apply to the UK at all. Others, such as well integrity statistics are made much harder when, as per the AAAS, whole portions of the data are capturing wells built with entirely different standards. Others that report on ‘fracking’ itself often turn out to be shallow fracking, with separation distances of a few hundred feet. Such Youtube clips are reporting on a different dataset.

      Often it is just a case of if a paper has a negative title then it is pushed globally without regard to accuracy.

  8. Gary one man’s crashed market, is another’s significant benefit. Obviously US is pulling back a little now, to improve profitability versus volume, but to me the big gain from the US output is we have the world’s most powerful cartel (OPEC) unable to manipulate price as and when they want although they have tried desperately to do so.
    I remember a certain Labour Government attempting to ignore OPEC, when there was no other game in town. That ended spectacularly badly.

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