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. Great stuff, Frack Free Ryedale!! Third Energy operation has been dodgy from the first application ie Ebberston Moor B. I don’t know how their documents have got past the EA. Also their Knapton power station is an old gas fired power station, whose inefficiency alone makes it unfit to contribute to national electricity supply in the future.

    • Agreed Linda H – though as this is just a straight vertical well (already drilled), with only short test zones (in the current fracking proposal), I don’t think they’re aiming for a major production scenario. It looks like they just want to demonstrate the potential for serious production so that Barclays Bank can sell off Third Energy for a good price, meaning they’d get a fair return on their investment while being seen by the public to be divesting from fossil fuels.

      The catch is, no serious environmental impact from this (relatively) small operation may disarm public concerns. If successful however, a sell-off could mean a much bigger operation would follow.

    • Why listen to experts when there are emotional Frack Free groups who have an overwhelming compulsion to vent? These groups and their “academic advisors” have been so, so, very accurate in their past prognostications of hs2 content (see PNR). Their understanding of petrophysics is demonstrably excellent. If it were up to me, I would let the Frack Free groups proceed with the fracking as they are obviously so well suited to the work! ;o)

    • Linda
      The power generation is from a an aero engine ( a jet plane engine) , as is that for most offshore platforms who generate their own power , so nothing out of the ordinary.

      I am sure they can upgrade it, if they get sufficient gas to warrant the move. Otherwise it means compressing the gas ( using a piston or aero engine derivative driven compressor ) and popping it in the grid, which would. Be less efficient than what they do now I suspect.

      Having an aero engine produce power is not a dodgy thing.

      Let’s see what Angus Energy are using to generate power and pop it into the grid? Paragons of virtue as they are, if that is a suitable metric to measure them by?

  2. Desperate stuff, Frack Free Ryedale. More batty than the bat saga.
    If this was to be an oil well, I would suggest scraping the barrel. All quite predictable, and all quite desperate, and obviously so.

    Get over it. Fracking will now be tested whatever silly last ditch attempts are made to stop it. You won’t stop it but you will rapidly destroy any remaining credibility for your cause. This sort of activity just indicates a fear of what test fracking might show. Not a lot of confidence it seems, in what has been preached for the last few years. “Believe what I say even though I obviously don’t!” Even FOE might have trouble advertising that one.

  3. I smelt sulphur a couple of weeks ago when I parked up the hill, there were 2 others smelt it too. Also smelt it in the village a few months ago as did the Police. Needs investigating.

    • Lynne
      Same here, but I live Near Newark. Turns out the biodigestor had a bad day for one, and the rendering plant ran for 2 hours with the thermal oxidiser down for another.
      What hinders investigations up your way? Are the parish council on the ball? Does a representative from Third Energy attend parish council meetings to update on progress and feedback on issues? Are any third energy workers on the parish council?
      Anyone given a presentation on the use of Mercaptans? A clue to the loss of mercaptans is …. do Third energy process workers wear overalls with bleach stains on them? If so, then it’s a good indicator someone has been throwing bleach about to oxidise the ( sulphur smelling ) mercaptans. Just a thought.

  4. As the company notes, they know what gas to expect and have a compliant pipeline to transport it.
    When it appears, they will be sampling it, as you do, so any variance will be noted, and appropriate action taken I guess.

    As to the suitability of the pipeline, should the gas turn out to be high H2S ( or higher than expected ), then the lifespan of the pipeline would be amended to suit. It would not dissolve on the spot.

    Re the desktop study to extend the lifetime of the pipeline, these studies take into account the maintenance regime in place and any finding therefrom ( such as the condition of the pipeline ). You cannot do a review without the maintenance history, otherwise you would have no information on which to base your decision. Unless FFR have evidence that the review did not consider the condition of the pipeline when determining its condition in order to extend its operational life? Ie it was a flawed review.

  5. The only ones who are desperate here are Third energy, constantly propped up by barclays bank and can’t even file a simple tax return on time, so how on earth can they be trusted when handling such dangerous gases in a pipline that will not be fit for purpose.
    They employ a security firm who turn up for work [edited by moderator] dressed in their balaclavas [edited by moderator]
    It’s not just the pipeline that isn’t fit for purpose, it’s third energy.

    • These security firms who the fracking companies employ are an indication of the kind of companies we are dealing with. We have encountered similar behaviour by security at PNR. What self respecting company has those kind of oafs at the front entrance to their business? The first impression the public get of the fracking companies. What an advert for the company.

  6. As at June 2017, there were 401 anaerobic digestion plants across the UK processing a mixture of food and farm waste into renewable biogas – some burned to generate heat and power, some injected to the gas grid. 14 of these are located in North Yorkshire.

    The proteins contained in the raw feedstocks for these plants contain sulphur and during the anaerobic digestion process, this is biologically converted into H2S.

    Before it can be used, either in heat and power generation or for injection into the grid, the resulting biogas has to be ‘upgraded’ to remove H2S (as well as other impurities, like CO2).

    So, my question is: given that the presence of H2S in biogas is known, not suspected, based on the Frack Free Ryedale arguments about the precautionary principle, does that mean that the 401 anaerobic digestion plants should be closed down? Or that no new plants should be given approval in future?

    Either way it would be a big blow to those of us that want to see more renewable gas production – not least because all that organic waste would be displaced and end up in landfill if there were no route into anaerobic digestion anymore.

    • Jack
      Phew … I thought Third Energy were in trouble and had hired the CEO of Carillion who had to bail out in mid 2017 after the first big melt down.
      But it’s the one brought in later to sort out the mess, and was unable to do so, hence the end of the company.

      A non executive director is not a member of the executive board and is not an employee of the company.

      So for the canary to say he is in charge is a stretch, but good click bait. What next, Gove is the President of US says the Canary? Is it the weekend?

      Mind you, he should now have sufficient expertise to advise TE what to do if they cannot frack ( shrink I guess ).

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