Regulation

First day of West Newton well test prompts smell complaints

190822 flaring WNMIS

Still from video of flare at Rathlin Energy’s West Newton-A well site, 22 August 2019. Photo: West Newton Monitoring and Information Station

Complaints about a smell from Rathlin Energy’s oil and gas site in East Yorkshire were reported to the Environment Agency today.

The company began flaring for the first time this morning as part of tests on its second well at the West Newton-A site.

A local resident noticed the smell after arriving home at just before 1pm.

“It was an awful, dreadful smell. It also smelt in the house.

“I felt head-achy and a bit dizzy. My eyes were stinging.”

The resident reported the smell to the Environment Agency (EA). Asked to rate the severity from 1-6 (where 6 is the worst), the resident gave it a 4.

Within an hour, strong wind appeared to have dispersed the smell but it was still in the house, the resident said.

The EA action line said the smell could linger in buildings and recommended the resident open windows to let it disperse.

DrillOrDrop understands other people living locally said they smelt gas during last night.

A video by West Newton Monitoring and Information Station, a group reporting on operations at the site, showed flames and haze at the top of the flare stack this morning.

The resident said family members had become concerned about gases burned in the West Newton flare. They had asked the EA and Rathlin Energy whether it was 100% safe to breath air near the site. The family was sent the EA’s response to Rathlin Energy’s permit application. The resident said:

“I don’t know whether it is safe or whether it is dangerous or really serious”.

People living near the West Newton site received a newsletter from the EA last week. This said the flaring of gas “may result in some off site odour and noise, and a blue flame may be visible at night” It also said the company had permission to use nitrogen to displace fluid in the wellbore. This also had the “potential to cause an odour noticeable off site”, the EA said.

A spokesperson for the EA said today:

“We have been out to carry out an investigation at this site. Our officers could not substantiate the complaint at the time of their visit. However if residents living near the site experience this problem again please do let us know through our 24 hour incident hotline tel 0800 80 70 60.”

The resident responded:

“I don’t know what they can do. We seem to be stuck with this.”

Rathlin Energy said the well tests were expected to take 4-8 weeks. In a statement today, the company said:

“The flow testing of the WNA-2 well commenced earlier today.

“The well test programme is scheduled to continue for the next 4-8 weeks.

“The necessary regulatory permissions and consents are in place for this test.”

Additional information regarding the test programme will be made available once the relevant data has been collected and analysed.”

This is not the first time there have been smells from West Newton-A.

Testing on the first well, in September 2014, also prompted complaints from neighbours. DrillOrDrop report

An EA inspection concluded that the pressure in the well had been too low for the flare to burn some waste gases. There were also three occasions in October 2014 when gas was vented to the atmosphere, in breach of conditions of the environmental permit. Details

7 replies »

  1. Would that be the same ‘West Newton Monitoring and Information Station’ that yesterday, were claiming Hydrofluoric acid had been taken onto the site instead of Hydrochloric acid and were urging as many people as possible to contact the EA?

  2. So the EA say the flaring of gas “may result in some off site odour and noise, and a blue flame may be visible at night”. The blue flame should normally be hard to see in daylight. But this flame is orange and luminous, even in daylight, so clearly it’s not fully combusting all the material that it should (a reducing flame, not an oxidising flame), and a lot opaque soot (particulates, PMs, call them what you will) are being released.

    So if full combustion isn’t occurring, what does this mean ?

    From a climate point of view, methane release.

    From a health point of view, carbon monoxide release is a possibility, which is pretty toxic.

    Any hydrogen sulphide present (very toxic and smelly until you get desensitised to it) may be incompletely burned to SOx (less toxic, but still smelly).

    But it’s producing soot, so the emissions probably include a range of hydrocarbons, VOCs, heavier organic compounds, and possibly elemental carbon.

    I short, a right dogs dinner of irritant, toxic and possibly carcinogenic materials.

    Pretty careless and likely non compliant.

    EA officers may not have been able to substantiate the complaint at the time of their visit, but the photo alone should tell them a lot if they know any combustion chemistry.

    Cheers, J/.

  3. I suspect the EA checked whether the site is compliant with the authorisations, John.

    Don’t think a ‘photo does that.

    • Haven’t see the authorisations, but I would have argued the toss with that photograph, especially if the EA say that the flare should be a clear blue [presumably smokeless] flame, only visible at night.

      Cheers, J/.

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