Legal

Injunction threat to Third Energy’s fracking plans over gas and pipeline fears

180118 KM Eddie Thornton 1

Third Energy’s fracking site at Kirby Misperton, 18 January 2018. Photo: Eddie Thornton

Campaigners in North Yorkshire have said they may seek an injunction against fracking by Third Energy at Kirby Misperton because of concerns about the pipeline that would transport any produced gas.

Frack Free Ryedale (FFR) has written to the Secretary of State for Business, Greg Clark, asking him to halt the company’s fracking plants at the KM8 well. Frack Free Ryedale letter to Secretary of State (pdf)

Third Energy has been waiting since November 2017 for final consent from Mr Clark to carry out hydraulic fracturing at the site.

FFR said it was concerned about the age of the pipeline intended to take fracked gas to be burned at Knapton power station and whether the gas would contain hydrogen sulphide (H2S).

H2S is a highly flammable and toxic gas which can cause breathing and heart problems at high concentrations.

FFR said fracking should not go ahead at KM8 without official monitoring of the pipeline. It also said that before the operation got underway Third Energy should be required to test the rocks to be fracked for H2S.

If consent were granted without these conditions in place, the group said it would seek a judicial review and an injunction.

Through its solicitor, Leigh Day, FFR gave the Secretary of State until 5pm on Wednesday 24 January 2018 to reply.

A spokesperson for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said:

“We have received the letter and will respond in due course.”

Third Energy said all the company’s infrastructure in North Yorkshire was permitted, regulated and tested regularly. It said it was confident there was no “incremental risk” to the pipeline from transporting KM8 gas (see full statement at the end of this article).

180118 KM Eddie Thornton 2

Third Energy’s fracking site at Kirby Misperton, 18 January 2018. Photo: Eddie Thornton

Hydrogen sulphide in fracked gas?

Third Energy has said that it expected gas from KM8 would be almost pure methane, with no H2S.

But FFR’s letter to Mr Clark said there was evidence of H2S in the Kirby Misperton area.

It said a leak in 2014 in the Pickering pipeline confirmed the release of sour gas (any gas containing significant amounts of H2S). Monitoring at KM8 in October also detected H2S, the letter said.

“It is entirely possible that fracked gas from KM8 will contain higher concentrations of H2S and have a different composition to the gas which the KM8 pipeline currently conveys.

“Samples that Third Energy has relied on from previous vertical tests are not wholly representative and cannot rule out that there could be significant material volumes as high as 90% of sour gas pockets within the horizontal rock formation, which fracking could potentially disturb.”

Without a proper test of any horizontal H2S deposits, this poses a major risk to public health, the letter said.

FFR said Third Energy was required to monitor for H2S at the KM8 site under a planning condition. But there appeared to be no protection along the pipeline.

The Health and Safety Executive had said the KM8 pipeline was designed to operate with the current composition of gas and that any fracked gas would be “within design parameter of both the well and the pipeline”.

But FFR said:

“It does not follow and cannot be assumed that the KM8 pipeline will be fit for purpose given the potentially different composition and the potential (as recognised in the planning permission) for H2S to be present.”

Age of the pipeline

FFR said it was concerned about the age of the pipeline and the future impact on it of any fracked gas containing hydrogen sulphide, which it said accelerated corrosion.

The group told Mr Clark the pipeline, constructed in 1994, was designed to transport H2S at a maximum concentration of 1,000 parts per million for 15 years.

It said Third Energy extended the pipeline’s life in 2010 for 14 years. This was based on a desk top study which assumed the system had a robust fully-recorded maintenance condition report. Since then, Third Energy has said it intended to use the pipeline for fracked gas for 20 years. The letter said:

“If fracking commences in 2018, then the expected production of gas potentially containing H2S exceeds the pipeline’s initial design life by 29 years, approximately 200% over its designed operating period.”

The letter added:

“Without any analysis of the H2S composition of the shale gas fracked at the horizontal levels, it is not known whether or not the maximum levels for H2S level or corrosion will be exceeded, nor are there in place any measures to assess and deal with that.”

171009 KM Office of Keith Taylor MEP cropped

Protest outside the KM8 site, 9 October 2017. Photo: Office of Keith Taylor MEP

Precautionary principle

The Third Energy fracking planning application required an environmental impact assessment.

This meant, FFR said in its letter, that decision-makers should apply the precautionary principle – a responsibility to protect the public from harm when there is a plausible risk.

It quoted a case brought by Friends of the Earth last year which ruled that to comply with the precautionary principle decision-makers needed positive evidence to show no harm, rather than just an absence of evidence of harm.

In the Third Energy case, FFR argued that a failure to take into account or make reasonable inquiries would be a breach of the precautionary principle and fracking regulations.

The group said it would be potentially unlawful for the Secretary of State to grant hydraulic fracturing consent at the KM8 well without requiring Third Energy to test for deposits of H2S in the horizontal rock formations and for monitoring of the KM8 pipeline.

Russell Scott, from Frack Free Ryedale said:

“It is simply not acceptable for the Secretary of State to allow Third Energy to proceed with fracking at Kirby Misperton. Third Energy intend to use a pipeline which is no longer fit for purpose to carry unknown levels of potentially lethal and highly toxic H2S gas through our communities – this cannot be allowed to happen.”

Campaigner, Sue Gough, who lives a mile from the proposed well-site, said:

“It beggars belief that Third Energy think using a pipeline that is over 23 years old to transport such dangerous materials is acceptable – they are playing Russian roulette with people’s lives.”

Third Energy statement

A spokesperson for Third Energy said:

“All of Third Energy’s infrastructure in North Yorkshire is permitted and regulated by North Yorkshire County Council, the Environment Agency, Oil and Gas Authority and the Health and Safety Executive. All equipment must be, and is, tested regularly for safety and environmental compliance in accordance with the regulations.

“Third Energy regularly inspects its gas pipeline at ground level and from the air for structural integrity and potential impacts on surrounding ecology. The line is also inspected internally on a planned frequency using approved techniques designed to assess pipeline integrity.

“All of our pipelines are fully compliant with the regulations and are designed to operate safely with the gas currently under production within the Vale of Pickering.

“We have undertaken extensive sampling and analysis of the natural gas which will be produced from the KM-8 well, following a successful fracture stimulation programme, and it is clear from the analysis that this gas contains minimal levels of H2S and is almost pure methane.

“As the existing facilities were designed to process and transport gas which contains H2S, we are confident there is no incremental risk associated with transporting KM-8 gas to the Knapton Generating Station in order to produce electricity.”

Frack Free Ryedale letter to Secretary of State (pdf)

27 replies »

  1. How many people arrested so far, Pauline? What an advertisement for the protestors.

    The police, and the security firms, have been remarkably tolerant, so far. But, as the protesting has become more aggressive, they, of course, have needed to react.

    Longer term, there will be more use of injunctions to remove the anti social scars of some of the protestors from local communities, so this is a temporary phase, much like the Newbury Bypass saga.

    • And how many people actually found guilty of committing a crime / accepted police charges? Is it not something like two people?

      It’s so very easy to say protectors are causing trouble when you see how many arrests there has been – but when these don’t translate into convictions you’ve got to start asking questions of the policing. I’ve witnessed a number of these so-called arrests and they are patently ridiculous:

      I saw a man arrested for criminal damage for melting a piece of police tape on the hearsay of a “witness”. No police officers saw it happen as they were all hiding behind a police van. Was this “criminal” charged? Of course not.
      I’ve seen an elderly woman arrested for obstruction because she didn’t get out of the road quick enough. Was she charged? No.
      I’ve seen another woman arrested for assaulting a police officer when the said officer pushed her and she spilt a drop of coffee on his leg. Was she charged? No.
      I’ve seen a man detained by police under the Mental Health Act and carted-off to hospital in an ambulance. He was released immediately by doctors because he was not mentally ill in the slightest.
      I’ve seen police push people off their bikes.
      I’ve seen police push people into the road and into ditches.
      I’ve seen police stop people in their cars and accuse them of driving illegally when they know full well that it’s not the case.
      I’ve seen police facilitate dangerous driving by HGVs, illegal number plates on HGVs which police chose to ignore and I’ve witnessed police trying to remove legally parked cars. I’ve even witnessed police officers shovelling grit onto the road for Third Energy.

      As for the security apes? Wearing balaclavas in a pathetic attempt to intimidate protectors, spitting at people, making threats, carrying concealed lock knives, physical assault, driving cars at protectors – and now perverting the course of justice by making-up accusations of poisoning animals…

      It is the protectors who have been remarkably tolerant so far.

    • It would not be necessary for these noble protestors to act as they do , to protect the whole area and wider, from fracking, by a tinpot offshore outfit which is to all intenst and purposes insolvent, run by incompetent opportunist cowboys, if the planning process had not been hijacked by political diktats. Without that the application to frack would have been resoundingly rejected. How dare you turn your nose up at the protestors. Each one of them is worth a million greedy apologists for fracking. [Edited by moderator]

  2. Interesting that Alan Linn lives in a place where there is no plan of fracking. Move into a fracking area if it is safe Alan.

  3. Hewes62,

    As Carillion ( The Titanic ) was sinking , it would appear Mr Cochrane was rushed in to re-arrange the deck chairs on the ship.

    Still it would appear, a FEW PEOPLE made a fortune as a result of its downfall ..

    Its true , Mr Cochrane was given an impossible task , not even Superman could of saved Carillion .

    We now find the same gentleman in a senior position at Third Energy, a loss making white elephant of a company with serious Tax Issues, registered in the Cayman Islands… Will he be re-arranging the deck chairs on this ship , or steering it away from the iceberg just in the nick of time ??

    Only time will tell.

    • Jack
      I guess so. Maybe more like moored to an iceberg waiting for the engines to be fixed while they run out of food.
      All that frack kit must be costing a bob or two.

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