Breaking: Decision on Third Energy’s fracking plans delayed by legal loophole

171113 km Eddie Thornton

Third Energy’s Kirby Misperton site, ready to frack since earlier this month. Photo: Kirby Misperton Protection Camp

The final decision on Third Energy’s plans to frack at Kirby Misperton has been delayed because of a loophole in the Infrastructure Act, the government said this evening.

A written ministerial statement was issued this afternoon to close the loophole. But a decision on the Kirby Misperton fracking operation was not now expected imminently.

A spokesperson for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said the Third Energy application would now be examined by senior officials, including the Department’s chief scientific advisor.

Third Energy said on 8 November 2017 it was ready to frack (DrillOrDrop report). Tonight BEIS was unable to say when the decision would be made.

According to the department, the loophole came to light in October 2017 when Third Energy submitted its application for final fracking approval.

Since then, officials had been working to close the loophole and it had not been able to look at the Third Energy application, the spokesperson said.

Under the Infrastructure Act, the Secretary of State has to give final consent for fracking operations. But this applies only to wells drilled since April 2016, the spokesperson said.

The KM8 well that Third Energy wants to frack was drilled in 2013 and was not covered by the wording of the act. Technically, the company did not need the Secretary of State’s permission to frack.

Richard Harrington MPThe spokesperson said the loophole was closed this afternoon in a direction to parliament referred to in a written ministerial statement from the energy minister, Richard Harrington (left).

The direction is expected to be published in parliament tomorrow.

In the statement, Mr Harrington said:

“My Rt. Hon. Friend Greg Clark (Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) has today laid before Parliament a Direction ensuring that the Oil and Gas Authority consults the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on onshore hydraulic fracturing operations.

“Under Section 4A of the Petroleum Act 1998 (inserted by Section 50 of the Infrastructure Act 2015), operators who wish to conduct associated hydraulic fracturing must apply for a Hydraulic Fracturing Consent from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

“Hydraulic Fracturing Consent was introduced in the Infrastructure Act 2015 as an additional step to the existing regulatory and permitting regime.

“However, it does not apply to wells drilled before the 2015 Act came to force and these are not captured by the requirement to seek a Hydraulic Fracturing Consent.

“Today’s Direction closes this loophole and ensures that the same approach for consent is taken for all relevant hydraulic fracturing operations, including where the associated well was drilled prior to the 2015 Act coming into force.

“For these operations, operators will be expected to meet the same set of standards as required to obtain Hydraulic Fracturing Consent, laid out in the Infrastructure Act 2015.

“The Government has been clear that shale development must be safe and environmentally sound.

“The UK has a robust regulatory system which provides a comprehensive regime for exploratory activities and this direction will ensure that all relevant hydraulic fracturing operations are subject to this final step of scrutiny.”

Reaction to the announcement (DrillOrDrop report)

Government direction to the OGA (with link to government document published 30/11/17)

(30/11 Article updated to include links to reaction and Government direction)

18 replies »

  1. Gold Standard Regulations in action.

    KM was always a bit of an oddity in being an existing well, reworked. Quite sensible to bring such into line, although I would suspect there will be few other examples of such.

    • Here is Ian R Cranes input on the Third fracking debacle, just a quick comment, it appears the loophole Greg Clark referred to was closed by the energy minister, Richard Harrington?

      Is this the same Richard Harrington that claimed to know nothing of Third Energy’s fracking application and did not know the situation???

      And yet he and his legal department were presumably at the same time processing the closing of the loophole that Third Energy did not need in the first place anyway had they known it, and hadn’t needed to appeal to Greg Clark and the absent minded energy minister in the first place? Dont Third energy feel a fracking fool about that?

      Some deeply pathetically precarious process of parliamentary peregrinations going on in the dark and dismal depths of fatuous flying fake frack fishy fantasies in Whitehall?

      Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy!

      GottaBSomewhere nice byeeee!

  2. Yes, the same gold standard regulations that allow multiple infractions of planning conditions without punishment, and are now seen to be inadequate to cover existing wells. And they’ve just discovered this now? How reassuring. Not.
    Must be costing Third Energy a fortune though as all the equipment is on site, so that’s at least something to bring some Christmas cheer to beleaguered communities in Yorkshire.

    • Hang on Ellie. Antis say there are no regulations and the companies mark their own homework, so how come these EA warnings have been issued? You cant have it both ways!! The infringements were very minor management and paperwork issues anyway. Should they be stopped from working cos there wasnt an up to date chemical inventory in site? Maybe if there was no toilet paper in the loo that would have been the trigger for a complete cessation of activities….

      • ‘Maybe if there was no toilet paper in the loo that would have been the trigger for a complete cessation of activities….’

        Complete cessation of activities happened when earthquakes were triggered by serious technical failings on the industries first gold standard attempt to fracture UK shale formations.

        I doubt there was any toilet paper left in the loo at Preese Hall 1 when things started to rumble.

        Drilling through faults and inducing earth quakes are very serious technical failings.

        Asking to have future seismic thresholds set at 2.6 magnitude after been forced to suspend operations for inducing a 2.3 magnitude earthquake will be of great concern to the chief scientific adviser.

        No wonder the SoS isn’t in a rush to put his name to approving the fracking of KM8

      • Ken – it is when you say daft things like “Antis say there are no regulations” that you let yourself down most. You are not a stupid man, so please discuss the issues like a grown up.

      • No. Antis say the regulations are not strong enough – not that they don’t exist! The EA made visits and found that the company was not operating within the regulations. End of. That’s what regulators should do.
        I’m pretty sure the regulations for drilling of wells and fracking do not include any advice on provision of toilet paper.

  3. Martin it would seem you are uneducated and uniformed when it comes to gold standard.
    Too much television and MSM has programmed you well. Have you had your flu shot yet? Thats efffective too…

  4. Much of the 2015 Infrastructure act was written to accommodate the oil and gas industry. Now we see the act being amended retrospectively to do more of the same.

  5. Well they could hardly give them permission whilst they still haven’t filed annual accounts could they?

    This is the second year running that they’ve been late doing this. Last year (oops that was THIS year) it took them until February didn’t it? (As reported here

    Aren’t they supposed to be sure of the financial viability of operators before letting them loose with fracking equipment?

    You can imagine the conversations that must be going on as the government attempt to cover up their embarrassment here. I bet the line between BEIS and Third Energy’s HQ is red hot and blue.

  6. Three questions to Ruth and commentators here:

    Why ‘associated’??

    What do you make of the Third Energy geologist saying they were drilling into and fracking a sandstone layer within the shale?

    Can someone please link me to the list of the chemicals they plan to use?

      • Well I just did Ken and I looked at the list of Fracture Fluid Additives, which is strangely non-specific.

        It does say “The components have been specifically selected based on their non-hazardous properties and have been assessed as non-hazardous to groundwater by the EA” but that presumably means in the concentrations used downhole rather than at transportation concentrations as we have discussed endlessly before?

        For example it just says “gel breaker”.

        I looked up gel breaker on Petrowiki and it tells me the industry uses a variety of

        3.1 Strong acid solution
        3.2 Hydrogen peroxide
        3.3 Bleach
        3.4 Delayed gel
        3.5 Water-soluble chemical breaker

        So which chemical will they use Ken which makes you so sure it is non-hazardous were an accident to happen during transportation or handling?

        Pending your reply I think I’ll stick to my Syrah if it’s all the same to you.

  7. But be careful not to add too much salt to your pork to accompany your Syrah, refracktion. You know the toxicity problems with that. And make sure you are well dressed up with full respirator before you top up your diesel, the “Ineos Papers” show that is dicing with all sorts of health hazards. You could always try diluting both if you are concerned you are unable, or untrained, to handle either in their normal concentration..
    However, if you don’t run that risk, next time you are puffing along the motorway behind an HGV puffer, you might just take a glance at the hazard signage on some of those vehicles. Everyday event on a mammoth scale-shock, horror.

    • Martin I’m very choosy about the pork eat – I’m especially looking forward to my roast wing of pork from the pigs that will be flying around when fracking goes into production.

      In the meantime I am having to make do with roasting those fracking industry chickens that are fast coming home to roost. Nom!

  8. Here are some of the residents of Pennsylvania who suffer fracking Kevin Hollinrake MP didn’t meet on his ‘Fact-finding visit’. (Before anyone starts whinging, the fact that these interviews were broadcast by RT has nothing to do with the revelations the DEP & EPA covered up)

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