Is Third Energy’s N Yorks gas pipeline in the wrong place?

1807 aerial photo of pipeline

Aerial photograph shows the Third Energy gas pipeline in the Vale of Pickering. Planners say it doesn’t follow the permitted route. Source: North Yorkshire County Council

A pipeline linking Third Energy’s gas production sites in the Vale of Pickering appears to be in the wrong place, North Yorkshire planners have told the company.

In a letter published on the county council’s website, the head of planning, Victoria Perkin, said the pipeline could, in places, be more than 50m away from the route for which it had permission. Letter from North Yorkshire County Council to Third Energy’s agent

The apparent disparity came to light when Third Energy applied to the council to continue to use the pipeline for another 17 years.

The pipeline transports gas from local production sites to the company’s Knapton electricity generating station.

Third Energy submitted a map showing the route of the pipeline. But when the council compared this with images of the pipeline from aerial photographs the two routes did not always correspond.

On one 2km stretch, the difference between the actual and consented route apparently varied by up to 40-50m, Ms Perkins said.

The maps below, from the council’s letter, show extracts from Third Energy’s route of the pipeline (left) and the route produced from aerial photographs (right).

Ms Perkins told Third Energy:

“Notwithstanding the consented route, a review of the aerial photographic evidence held by the County Planning Authority would appear to show that the implemented/”as built” pipeline follows a different alignment.

“The deviation from the consented alignment, taking into account engineering tolerances, would appear to be of varying distances, as much as up to 40-50 metres from the centreline (and at certain points, an even greater distance) for an approximate 2km section of the consented route.”

Other pipeline application problems

The eight-page letter from Ms Perkin also pointed out three other problems with Third Energy’s pipeline application.

In six places, the pipeline route shown in black on plans submitted to the council in 2006 (left) was different to the route shown in red on maps submitted for the most recent application (right).

1807 pipeline disparties 2006 and 2018 11807 pipeline disparties 2006 and 2018 21807 pipeline disparties 2006 and 2018 3

One section of pipeline, between Pickering and Kirby Misperton, does not appear to be covered by the permission granted in 2006 which Third Energy is seeking to extend. That permission did not show this section of pipeline, Ms Perkin said.

She also said the section of pipeline between Pickering and Kirby Misperton did not follow the route for which it was permitted, under a different planning application dating from 2000, which has now expired.

Third Energy is seeking to vary conditions in a previous planning permission – a quicker process than making a full application.

But Ms Perkins suggested:

“A possible remedy to this situation could be submission of a full planning application to this Authority”.

DrillOrDrop asked Third Energy how the pipeline appeared to be in the wrong place. A spokesperson for Third Energy told us:

“We have submitted a number of applications to North Yorkshire County Council to align the permissions and lifespan of our gas infrastructure in the Vale of Pickering as part of our wider operations. We are working with the planning authority to validate our applications ahead of determination, during this time our operations remain unaffected.”

But a spokesperson for North Yorkshire County Council told us this morning:

“We can confirm that no formal written response on behalf of the applicant company to the letter in question has been received yet.”

Invalid well site applications

Third Energy has submitted another eight applications to extend the duration of local well sites at Kirby Misperton, Pickering, Malton and Marishes until 2035.

But three of these applications were described in the council’s letter as invalid because of faults with the submitted plans.

In the applications for the Kirby Misperton 1/3 and 2 well sites, the plans did not show how the sites connect to the road, as required by planning guidance, Ms Perkins said.

To be valid, applications need to show what is called the “red line boundary” of the site that includes all land necessary to carry out the proposed development. Ms Perkin suggested Third Energy should submit full applications for these sites.

On the Pickering well site application, the red line boundary map did not include a revision made during processing of the 2008 application. Ms Perkin suggested the company submitted a revised red line boundary plan.

The remaining five applications were regarded by the council as valid.


Letter from North Yorkshire County Council to Third Energy’s agent

Applications not yet validated

NY/2018/0113/73A variation of conditions 1 and 2 of previous planning permissions

NY/2018/0107/73A Kirby Misperton 1/3 well site, variation of condition 3 in previous planning permission

NY/2018/0111/73A Kirby Misperton 2 well site, variation of condition 2 in previous planning permission

NY/2018/0117/73A Pickering well site, variation of condition 9 of previous planning permission

Valid applications

NY/2018/0108/73A Kirby Misperton 1/3 well site, variation of condition 2 in previous planning permission

NY/2018/0112/73A Kirby Misperton 2 well site, variation of condition 3 in previous planning permission

NY/2018/0114/73A Malton A well site, variation of condition 2 in previous planning permission

NY/2018/0116/73A Malton B well site, variation of condition 2 in previous planning permission

NY/2018/0118/73A Marishes well site, variation of condition 2 in previous planning permission


19 replies »

  1. well isn,t that interesting The question I have is did the council sign off on it back in 2006 As I find it incredulous that they would not have visited the site for inspection.

  2. It appears that 2006 was also just a variation of the planning term condition. The pipelines, or most of them, were installed much earlier.

    The focus seems to be on planning and route plans. What about condition? What was the design life? This is probably an issue for HSE and OGA – which makes sense. Same with sub-surface, should be nothing to do with planners whose remit is surface impacts, primarily visual, noise and highways.

  3. Ruth

    The answer to the headline question is probably …. we don’t know yet.

    Perhaps the headline should be

    Is the pipeline plan ZG-TE-KM2-PA-01 ( Drawn up by Zetland Group ) correct?

    Or, why is the pipeline plan a new one ( Rev 0 ), with no ref to any past plans from which the plan has been created.

    Maybe … is this plan the same as that in the Pipeline Emergency Response Document?

    Perhaps we will find out soon whether that plan is correct and if not why not, and if correct ( apart from a job well done ) why the discrepancies from past submitted plans.

    Over to TE no doubt and any root causes yet to be determined.

  4. Third Energy clearly didn’t build the pipeline as they only bought out Viking several years ago. However, as they constantly claim that they’ve been operating safely in this area for decades (many years before they existed), then they must presumably be prepared to accept responsibility for everything they bought – including the precise location of all infrastructure and pipelines. After all, when we buy a house, we employ solicitors and surveyors to ensure we get exactly what we expect to pay for, or otherwise accept the risks.
    Given that any pipelines will have to have had regular inspections, I would have thought that would include both internal and some degree of external monitoring for leakage. It seems bizarre that they don’t know the precise route and could plot it on a map, given the accuracy of modern GPS mapping techniques and metal location. It occurrs to me that there will be a remarkably low risk of self-monitoring any methane leakage from a pipeline that’s 40m away from the point of monitoring!
    As the pipeline has run considerably beyond its original design specification and has presumably been used (and is proposed to be used in the future) for water, gas and various additional trace elements such as hydrogen sulphide, the condition of the pipe from such corrosive elements is a vital factor in both safety and methane leakage. We all know this is a key factor in gas being more attractive than coal burning in climate change gas emission terms.
    NYCC deserve some recognition for doing their job thoroughly enough to spot these considerable discrepancies, although hardly surprising given the level of scrutiny. I would guess that the original deviation was related to ease of installation and very possibly landowner consents, in which case, why wasn’t this variation notified to and cleared with the planning authority at the time, possibly with minor revision of the consent? Not quite as obvious as conveniently building a new house in your neighbours garden, but the principle and the lack of respect for planning laws is the same. Consequently, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to require a full new planning application for something that bears limited relation to what was built.

  5. seems to me its the council inspectors job to sign off on any building works, & can only presume that the same applies to pipe line construction So who signed off on the original installation as if the council has signed it off. you can hardly start demanding new applications be submitted now.

    • I’m not aware that councils have enough spare cash to employ ‘inspectors’ to sign off building works. There’s Building Control to oversee building regs, but that’s another matter. I would hope more recent regulation would mean a gas pipeline would be better monitored for compliance nowadays.
      Thousands of planning applications are submitted for approval or rejection every year. They’re not signed off on completion – merely approved or rejected. Once approved, it’s the responsibility of the applicant to carry out the work as per the plan submitted and in compliance with any conditions attached. Applying to build a new house in your back garden, then deciding to build it 40m away in next doors garden is not compliant – that would need an entirely different planning application. Why should it be any different if the house is actually a pipeline, but you still decide to bury it under next doors garden contrary to the permission as granted?
      Sadly, councils don’t have the resources to monitor and measure every new construction, but if they are told that someone’s pulled a fast one, or are sent a map of a completely different pipeline route, they should of course take action. The whole idea of the planning system is to prevent a free-for-all by unscrupulous developers. However, as I obviously don’t know anything about the planning system according to Martin Collyer, perhaps you should check with him. Apparently, he doesn’t regard Third Energy not knowing the location of their own pipeline as a problem, so perhaps a planning free-for-all is the ideal solution for some as a nice little earner?

      • ….and of course, anyone who wants something more akin to a fracking free-for-all might be tempted to change national planning policy to make it much easier…. and remove the need for planning applications and local regulation in the first place (let’s just call it something like ‘permitted development’) …. and take away any control from the people it affects and who know how and why it needs regulating locally. Pah – nobody would be that stupid or calculating surely.

        • Mike Potter
          A comment on issues raised in a few posts above.
          1. Yes, TE are now accountable for the pipeline, and any issues arising.
          2. Pipeline integrity management does not include sniffing for methane along its route ( its more about measuring what goes in vs what comes out, select external inspection and intelligent pigging.)

          The interesting point for me is that knowing where the pipeline is located is a key part of the Pipeline Integrity Management Scheme, in that it Is a key defence against someone not digging it up.
          In addition the route map forms a key part of the pipeline ER plan, as well as the council response plan.

          So, when the dust settles, it will be interesting to see which plan has been used by TE up to now, and why the plan submitted in the recent application does not align to past plans submitted by the operator ( whoever it was at the time ) nor the as built route, a copy of which is very likely with the council ( somewhere ), and likely signed off at the time.

          I would not subscribe to the view that there was a plan to put the pipeline somewhere else and not tell the council, especially as the route is so easily determined. More likely a cock up in documentation. After all, Pipeline laying is a civil engineering activity, not an oil and gas company activity, and the accountability re planning liaison would most likely have been with the contractor who built it.

          By the by, we sold a house recently, and while the 1650 and 1750s bit caused no comment, the 2003 part caused angst as the council planning department did not hold the planning approval ( lost during a scanning exercise it seems ) but another dept had a certificate of compliance for us ( phew ).

          • Thanks for the response Hewes, which as usual appears to be well informed and reasoned, which I always appreciate. If there was more openness and honesty around the whole process, maybe more people could be convinced of a role for fracking in this country. Of course, that cannot alter the fact that any new source of hydrocarbons is incompatible with CCC and other climate expert assessments, yet renewables are not well enough developed and advanced to take the strain. And before the usual suspects start the same old climate change denial (or that burning yet more hydrocarbons is the answer), it’s not really the best time to do that is it?
            Coupled with instability in the Middle East, it’s the perfect storm for energy policy and, to me, demonstrates how inept governments of every persuasion have been for decades, making short term decisions based on political expediency instead of sensible (and completely necessary) long term decisions and investments.

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