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. There is as much chance of enforcement here as …… (supply your own impossible event description).

    Another example of how Gold Standard regulation works.

    But let’s not blame (only) the company. What this illustrates is that for years and decades local authorities have had neither the resources nor the inclination to monitor whether developments are in accordance with planning permissions. There has been a deep-seated institutional bias in favour of developers. If nothing else changes with fracking, this surely where neither lax regulators nor unscrupulous operators can continue to flaunt permission and conditions with such impunity as they have in the past. And it is ALL down to community action. Our elected representatives have let us down, but our protectors are stepping in to fill the gap.

  2. Par for the course , these companies will say whatever they like to planners and investors while doing something totally different. UKOG have told investors that a new planning app is in for Markwells wood site yet none can be found and a second order against them has been issued , Angus Energy has been saying for nearly 18 months that they have sorted things with SCC about the disputed BRx4z side track , its all BS yet nobody seems to do anything about it .

  3. This company is clearly not fit to operate. First the financial problems that led to them being denied a licence to frack at KM8. Now they can’t even put a pipeline in the right place. What a shambles.

  4. Interesting post, Jono. Good to see that the gold-standard regulations are being shown up for what they really are – a licence for oil and gas companies to do whatever they want and write their own rules.

  5. I wonder if some of these pipeline routes were altered because it was cheaper. Either way this company is either incompetent or so arrogant they chose to ignore the permission as granted, probably both. Just another example of how poorly this industry has been monitored and how little is done when they breach planning or other regulations. With the numerous breaches that have now been recorded in Yorkshire, Lancashire and elsewhere it does not bode well. And this is before any permitted development rights have been granted. Clearly the idea of the so called gold standard regulations is not as the industry would have people believe and the prospect of this industry developing well pads and drilling wells without even the need for planning permission is quite frankly scary.

  6. 5 applications fine, 3 need work.

    Seems a pretty good start, compared to most applications.

    How many planning applications get agreed without adjustment? Very few.

    If all had been fine, then we could have seen claims that the Planning Department wasn’t doing it’s job fully.

  7. Perhaps it is worth looking at the applications to see the history of these pipelines? Did Third Energy install these pipelines? I will leave it to those with time to check but it certainly doesn’t look like they did. See pages 4 & 5 from the Planning Statement.

    Original planning permission was granted in 1993 – did Third Energy exist then? I think not. Did Viking exist then? I think not. Are these all new pipelines installed since TE took over? I doubt it.

    Perhaps Ruth / Paul can investigate and enlighten us on who installed the various pipelines and when? It doesn’t look like it wasTE. Perhaps it was Scottish Power – see pages 7 & 8.


  8. A badly laid pipeline is of course the fault of the company who laid it (not TE).

    That part of the story doesn’t generate the desired spin and so it is ommitted. Par for the course.

  9. I dont think anyone is saying that who is to blame at the moment or why the permissions dont match the submitted plans, but more that there are clear and verifiable discrepancies?

    I would say that Alan Tootill has the present situation more accurately, that when the pipeline was constructed, that the course of the pipeline did not match the submitted planning application, and that subsequent planning applications appear to vary considerably from even that?

    I have been involved in several such pipe routes abroad, albeit with more open space to play with and a few of those were found to be laid in the wrong location relative to the plans.

    If there was a reasonable explanation, such as difficult geology or unmapped surface feature, then that was relatively simple resolved, but in a closely populated location in England, that may be not so simple, since there are very strong legal definitions of route corridor and disputes over ownership to be considered.

    I would say that there is perhaps only one course of action to be taken here, a ground trace and independent land survey carried out at the expense of the applicant and perhaps recovered from the original contractor, and for that to be matched or disputed with the original planning application pipe location route corridor, which will have been very specific as to offset and inset and location within the route corridor. That should be available from the original contractor and/or their consulting engineers.

    What the result of that may be is open to some debate, but if there are serious 50m discrepancies, in route corridor and boundary proximity, as is indicated, then perhaps the original planning permission may be withdrawn and the original construction contractor asked to explain the discrepancy and that has some quite interesting legal consequences, and then a reapplication requested and taken through the courts to establish relative culpability?

    I imagine that could take some time, maybe years to be resolved?

    5, 4, 3 2, 1……..

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