08Jun / 2016
In May the first planning application since 2011 involving hydraulic fracturing was approved. The decision to allow Third Energy to test the flow and, if successful, produce gas from its existing site in Kirby Misperton triggers action for the UK onshore petroleum industry.
This pivotal decision, following the granting of environmental permits by the Environment Agency, has refuelled the discussion on the potential of shale, but also its responsible and moral development.
Third Energy has acknowledged that the company has a ‘huge responsibility’ for carrying out a safe operation resulting in no adverse environmental impact. However after 20 years of securely delivering gas from this site, to them this is business as usual. North Yorkshire has a rich history in the industry that dates back to the 1930s, therefore the required adjustments in shale production do not lay within operations but in the way the process is monitored.
United Kingdom regulations for onshore petroleum exploration are some of the most stringent in the world, with the duty of care handed directly to the operator encouraging adherence to standards and a focus on continuous improvement. United Kingdom Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG) guidelines issued in 2015 make clear the importance of acquiring baseline data in advance of any activity to establish the pre-development conditions, therefore enabling accurate tracking and reporting of the environment throughout the exploration.
Ground-Gas Solutions (GGS) was the principal author of these guidelines, which advise the use of best available technologies to establish baseline ground-gas data leading to the determination of a geo-chemical fingerprint. This unique impression can then be continuously monitored over time, the results of which are used as a reference and compared against operational data. The absence of any significant change to the recorded baseline conditions will provide evidence that environmental damage has not occurred and no further assessment is required.
Shale World UK in London, May 2016
Although preliminary ‘desk based’ research can provide a general overview, the installation of appropriate environmental monitoring systems that produce detailed data is the only means of characterising ground-gas and other important environmental parameters at a site. It is invaluable in terms of understanding the environment before work commences and helps protect against any potential liabilities for the operator. Although it cannot be presumed that the presence of ground gas on site is a direct result of industrial activity, there is no proof of this without appropriate baseline monitoring.
GGS’s improved approach to environmental monitoring has been taken up by a number of onshore petroleum operators, including Cuadrilla and IGas. Through the use of continuous monitoring technologies (baseline, operational and post-operational), flexible and cost-effective services are available to enable the acquisition of robust data leading to informed risk communication.
As a professional and independent environmental consultancy, we make possible the transparent collection of site specific data, leading to impartial evidence and advice that benefit not just operators, but regulators and communities as well. This not only contributes to safeguarding the practice of shale exploration and but helps tackle negative perceptions of the industry. Techniques that maintain the highest standards of environmental protection offer all relevant parties the confidence that best practice is adhered to and due diligence is in place.