Not fit to frack – why Third Energy’s fracking application failed its validation test

keep km8 frack freeIn a hurry? Want the key information? Please read our press release by clicking on the link below.

FFR press release – NYCC letter reveals reasons for failed Third Energy fracking application

You can also read the NYCC letter to Third Energy by clicking on this link:

NYCC failed validation letter to Third Energy – 09.06.15

I’d like a bit of background on this. What’s this all about?

Third Energy applied to frack at their KM8 well in Kirby Misperton on 22nd May. Normally validation is a formality and takes about 48 hours. However, Third Energy’s application failed its validation test with the North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) and was returned to the energy company nearly three weeks later, on 10th June.

Commenting on this decision John Dewar, Director of Operations, said “Whilst the individual reasons for not validating the application are not difficult to address, we have decided that the simplest course of action is to resubmit the revised documents as a new application.”

So what was the problem with the application?

We’ve been wondering that too. Over the following four weeks, Third Energy refused to respond to residents’ requests for information on why this application was not validated. Councillor Lindsay Burr said: “Questions need to be asked regarding this hugely important application as to exactly why it did not meet the planning application criteria. This gives me concern about Third Energy’s competence regarding their ability to frack in our neighbourhood.”

Sue Gough, who lives in Little Barugh, said that residents deserved to know the reasons behind the application failing the validation procedure. She said: “Third Energy are claiming that they are ‘good neighbours’, yet they still refuse to tell local residents the reasons why their fracking application failed its validation test. We deserve to know the reasons.”

Have Third Energy responded to these criticisms?

No, they’ve actually been very quiet. However, they were quoted on the trade industry website Shale Gas Insider that the changes required by the NYCC “included the misspelling of a road name and changes to the flow rate of the proposed gas pipes.”

Also, at a public meeting in Terrington on 7th July, a spokesperson for the company gave the distinct impression that the failed validation was merely a matter of adminstative detail, and that the application failed because “the email address had fallen off one of the pages.”

Not for the first time, we feel that Third Energy are being, ahem, economical with the truth on this matter.

Protestors outside Third Energy's offices in Knapton

Protestors outside Third Energy’s offices in Knapton

So what are the real reasons the NYCC wouldn’t validate the application?

In Third Energy’s press release on 10th June, they said: “Third Energy has received a letter from North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) saying that it cannot validate its planning application for the proposed hydraulic fracturing at the KM8 well at Kirby Misperton  and setting out the areas where they wish to see more clarification.”

Frack Free Ryedale have obtained a copy of the letter sent to Third Energy by the NYCC, via a Freedom of Information request. As you might imagine, it makes very interesting reading, and lists a whole litany of problems with the application, some of which are simply astonishing.

You can download the letter via this link:
NYCC failed validation letter to Third Energy – 09.06.15

Here are the main points from the letter – it makes very interesting reading.

The Application Form

Part One of the NYCC letter relates to the failures in filling in the application form, most of which does not appear to have been filled in at all. Sections that were not filled in include the following:

  • planning permissions for minerals development (p2, point 1)
  • how much gas the company planned to produce. Instead, Third Energy simply wrote ‘N/A’ … yes, seriously! (p2, pt 2)
  • details of the time period in which permission in sought (p2/3, pt 3). More on this point below.
  • information on the amount of gas they expect to produce per day, per annum, the total reserve and life of the well (p3, pt 4)
  • any plans, drawings or other supporting information. Instead the company simply included a reference saying ‘Please see Planning Statement’, which the NYCC said ‘has the potential for confusion and leads to an absence of any definitive answer as to precisely what comprises the application documents.’ (p3, pt 5)
  • the equipment and method used, again incorrectly referring people to the Planning Statement (p3, pt 6)
  • the hours of operation (p3/4, pt 7). On this point, the NYCC comments “an interested person should be able to glean the basics of the application from the form alone with necessarily referring to a number of separate documents.”
  • the hours of use of items of plant such as generators and pumps (p4, pt 7)
  • how many people would be employed to do the work (p4, pt 8)
  • misleading information on Trees and Hedges, where the NYCC says that the information on the application form is in conflict with that on the Landscape & Visual Assessment document.
  • missing information on the amount and type of Trade Effluent (p4, pt 10)
  • wrong address of the site owner (here is where they misspelt the road name – so at least they were telling the truth about that!)
  • insufficient information on Voluntary Agreement and Planning Obligations (p4, pt 12)
  • insufficient information regarding display of public notification of the planned development, where the NYCC says, “There is no accompanying text to declare that the Notice has been displayed on the application site.” (p4, pt 13)

So what haven’t they told us about the time period?

In point 3 on p2 of the NYCC letter, they have tried to work out themselves what sort of time period Third Energy are applying for, adding the comment that “in the absence of such information on the Application Form itself, the following has been deciphered from within the text of the supporting Planning Statement.”

Here is a summary of the planned work as detailed in the NYCC letter:

Phase 1 – Pre-stimulation workover – 2 weeks on a 24/7 basis

Phase 2 – Hydraulic fracture stimulation/well test – 6 weeks on a 24/7 basis

Phase 3 – Production Test – 3 months on a 24/7 basis

Phase 4 – Production – no estimate of time has been provided

Phase 5 – Restoration – no estimate of time has been provided

What is disturbing about this is that Third Energy appear to be applying for not only a test-frac at five levels, but also continuing and ongoing production for as long as they think the well would produce gas.

Also note the 5 months of 24/7 work on the site in Phases 1-3 – and that’s before production starts in earnest.

I thought they said this was just a test-frac?

They did. In the Residents’ Brochure, which was distributed to people living near the well in January, the company says: We do not know at this stage if gas production could be commercially viable – whether the gas will flow in sufficient volumes and rates. The only way we can be certain is to flow test the well. Therefore, we are seeking the necessary planning permission and other approvals to test flow the well.”

All the figures in the Residents’ Brochure – amount of water, time for the work, truck movements, etc. etc. – relate to this test flow, or test-frac, NOT to ongoing production. This would, of course, involve vastly more of all of these, and would mean 24/7 noise and pollution, potentially for a number of years.

People who have attended Third Energy’s consultations and listened to their public statements will also confirm that they have been talking about the test-frac and what was required for that, and consistently refused to discuss production of any kind.

So have Third Energy been lying to us?

You may say that. We couldn’t possibly comment.

There is, however, a very telling paragraph on page 9 of the letter that follows up this point, stating that the NYCC “has not been able to categorically establish that the proposal put forward seeks planning permission for the production of gas solely from the five hydraulic fracture processes as proposed in the application, rendering any future proposal for hydraulic fracturing operations subject to a requirement for a further planning application.”
So even the NYCC are not clear what is being applied for.

What’s FFR’s interpretation of this comment?

It appears to us that Third Energy are trying to make this look like an application for a test frac (as they did in the Residents’ Brochure), by only quoting the amount of water, truck movements and time needed to do this phase – but they are in fact trying to sneak in an open-ended request for full production on the back of this, without including any figures for amount of gas, time needed, water quantities, chemical quantities, truck movements, etc etc that would be needed for commercial production. Fortunately the good people at the NYCC seem wise to this ploy and have pulled them up on this on numerous occasions.

So what else does the NYCC letter say?

The next section is called Compliance with the County Planning Authority’s Local List of Validation Requirements. Here is a summary of the failures as listed in the letter:

  • The wrong Minerals Development Checklist has been included with the application (p5, point 14)
  • No Flood Risk Assessment has been provided, which is a statutory obligation under law (p5, pt 15)
  • The site area is not clearly defined on the submitted Site Plan (p5, pt 16)
  • The Site Plan does not follow the County Council’s adopted list of Validation Requirements, particularly in relation to defining the Public Rights of Way, and is based on out-of-date Ordnance Survey information (which excludes the caravan and camping area only 400m from the KM8 well-pad) (p5, pt 17)
  • A Utilities Assessment has not been provided (p5, pt 18)
  • Plans and drawings are inconsistent and require ‘the reader to undertake a significant exercise in cross-correlation’ to understand them.

So it’s a bit more serious than misspelling a road name, then.

Indeed. And there’s more. Here are the NYCC’s comments on the deficiencies of the Planning Statement (which is a key document that forms a major part of the application). And hold on to your hats, some of these are truly shocking …

FRAC FLUID (p6, point 2)

  • The pressure the frac fluid (a mixture of water, sand and chemicals that is pumped down the well to do the frac) is not provided (note that the frac fluid is called the ‘stimulation treatment’ in the NYCC letter)
  • The quantity of frac fluid that will be used in each of the five separate test-fracs at different levels is not specified
  • There is no information about how the frac fluid is produced (i.e. how they mix it up)
  • There is also no information on the source of the water that is used in the frac fluid
  • No indication of the volumes or proportional quantities in the ‘fracture additives’ (this is their feelgood synonym for ‘chemicals’)

Translation, please …

Basically the NYCC are saying that Third Energy have not included any details whatsoever of what chemicals would be in the frac fluid, what the concentrations of each chemical would be, where the water will come from, how much frac fluid they are using at each level, how the frac fluid is mixed on-site, or the pressure it is being injected at.

Apart from that, though, all the information is included?

Well, they have at least managed to spell Kirby Misperton correctly.

Cuadrilla's site at Balcombe

Cuadrilla’s site at Balcombe

What does the NYCC letter say about the waste fluid?

I’m glad you asked that. In fact, the letter is also highly critical of what is said about the waste fluid, which would come back up the well with the produced gas.

WASTE FLUID or FLOWBACK FLUID (p6, points 22, 23, )

  • The amount of flow-back fluid (in cubic metres or gallons) that will need taking off-site for treatment is not included. The NYCC states that “with no mention of volumes, an assessment of the impact of the waste removal cannot be made by the Planning Authority.”
  • The application states that ‘waste water treatment may include electrocoagulation and UV screening’, with no further mention of what this entails.
  • The statement ‘all flowback water may be diverted directly to storage tanks on site’ does not match the diagrams of equipment on the Site Map.
  • There is no contingency for a disruption to the supply of water via the pipeline to the application site (which is intended to transport 4000m3 – which the NYCC helpfully points out is 4 million litres or 880,000 gallons).

Crikey, this goes on and on. Is there much more? I’ve got work to do.

OK, I’ll hurry it up a bit. Other issues with the application are as follows:

LIGHTING – “The textual explanation does not correlate with the illustrations provided.” For example, the written application says ‘4 x 1,000W metal halide portable lighting towers’, while the corresponding illustration displays eight 8-metre high lighting units. The NYCC notes ‘There is therefore a need for greater precision within the application”. (p7, point 25)

AFTERCARE AND MONITORING – There is no provision for restoration of the site, or for monitoring for a period of after-care of five years (which is a statutory requirement). Or, in other words, details of a restoration and after-care scheme are completely absent from the application. (p7, point 26)
What they say instead is – hilariously – “The site restoration phase will be the reverse of the construction phase” – sort of like rewinding a video, right?

NOISE – There are no details whatsoever of a noise monitoring scheme. Seriously. I’m not making this up. (p8, point 27)

SEISMIC ACTIVITY – No specific signposting is made to the seismic monitoring plan, as advised by the appointed consultant

ENVIRONMENTAL STATEMENT – To quote the NYCC letter, “There is no undertaking made within the submitted planning application documentation with regard to a commitment to any of the recommendations within the (environmental) consultant’s report. For the submitted planning application documentation to be considered, it must include the schemes to which reference has been made and indeed reliance has been placed (in the following areas):
KMgreenglow.jpgGas Monitoring Scheme
Air Quality Monitoring Scheme
Water Quality Monitoring Scheme
Noise Monitoring Scheme
Protected Species Monitoring Scheme
Hydraulic Fracture Plan
After-care Plan
Details of the proposed Community Liaison Group
Waste Management plan, Traffic Management Plan, Lighting Management Plan and Restoration Plan (p8, point 27)

So basically what they’re saying here is that Third Energy have not undertaken to do any of the things that are recommended by their environmental consultant, which I’m sure you will find very reassuring.

THE RYEDALE PLAN – “The planning statement entitled ‘Planning Policy’ does not refer to policies pertaining to the RDC”. (p8, point 28)

LANDSCAPING –  Third Energy say that ‘the landscaping scheme was established in 2014 and once mature will effectively screen the site’. The NYCC countered: “There is likely to be a significant period of time (10-15 years) before this particular planting will be established as an effective screen and therefore very little likelihood of such planting mitigating the effects of the proposed development, at least in the short to medium term.’

So, effectively, Third Energy planted some little trees last year, and are now claiming that they will block the view if they frack next year. Honestly, guys, how stupid do you think people are?

CAMPING AND CARAVAN SITE – This is about 400m north-east of the application site, but Third Energy have apparently used out of date OS maps for their application, which don’t include this site. Or, to be more accurate, they did include a Caravan Park, but conveniently located it a further 300m from the site. (p8/9, first para)

HOLIDAYMAKERS AND VISITORS TO FLAMINGO LAND – Again, to quote the NYCC letter, “The Air Impact Assessment makes reference only to ‘permanent human habitation. There is no acknowledgement to the presence of a transient population enjoying the nearby Flamingo Land resort and the caravan and camping areas in the vicinity of the application site.
Which means that Third Energy have not considered the effect the noise and air pollution would have on people going to visit Flamingo Land, or are staying in caravans or tents within 400m of the site.

But surely they wouldn’t be allowed to get away with that?

It looks like the NYCC are onto them. The penultimate paragraph says: “The level of uncertainty expressed in the submitted planning application documentation in respect of certain matters gives cause for concern when considering the assessments contained within the accompanying Environmental Statement, (which) will have been prepared on a number of assumptions.”
And here’s the kicker …
“If those assumptions are found to be incorrect or unfounded, there is the potential that the Environmental Statement is rendered deficient for these reasons, and therefore and exercise of reviewing the Environmental Statement and the assumptions contained therein needs to be undertaken.”
In other words, if their Environmental Statement hasn’t included consideration of the people at the nearby caravan and camp site, and the tens of thousands of people visiting Flamingo Land, they’re going to have to go away and do it all over again.

And there was me thinking that all they did was spell the name of a street wrong…

Indeed. But seriously, folks, how can anyone possibly let this company frack in the beautiful countryside of Ryedale – or anywhere else for that matter – when they can make such a dog’s dinner of the initial application?

We have to stop this happening. What can I do to help?

We’re waiting for the second version of the application – which we gather was re-submitted on Friday 2nd July – to be validated by the NYCC. When this arrives, we will look at it carefully, and then post guidelines on how to object on this site. We are also hiring some expert consultants to deal with the application when it returns to the NYCC.

We urgently need funds to help fight this application. Please donate whatever you can afford by going to our Donations page.

To receive newsletters and updates as the story unfolds, please go to the bottom of the home page and join our mailing list. We will send you details of how you can object as soon as we have more information, and also keep you informed of other developments.

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The story has been picked up by the Gazette and Herald, the Yorkshire Post, the Northern Echo and online fracking news site Drill or Drop.

Astonishingly, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Third Energy are still claiming that their application only contained ‘a small number of minor errors’. This statement shows a peculiar disregard for the facts, given that the letter is in the public domain for all the world to see. I’d hate to be around when them make a major error.

There have been lots of letters to the Yorkshire Post about this issue, which you can read here, here and here.

So what happened next?

Well, the application was resubmitted – and was rejected again by the North Yorkshire County Council. For the full story, please go to our Third Energy – Second go page.



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