Environmental Baseline Monitoring Project. Phase II, final report

Ward, R.S, Pauline Smedley, Grant Allen, Brian Baptie, Zornitza Daraktchieva, Anna Horleston, D.G. Jones, Colm Jordan, Alastair Lewis, D Lowry, M Rivett

Research output: Book/ReportOther report


This report is submitted in compliance with the conditions set out in the grant awarded to the British Geological Survey (BGS), for the period April 2016 – March 2017, to support the jointly-funded project "Science-based environmental baseline monitoring". It presents the results of monitoring and/or measurement and preliminary interpretation of these data to characterise the baseline environmental conditions in the Vale of Pickering, North Yorkshire and for air quality, the Fylde in Lancashire ahead of any shale gas development. The two areas where the monitoring is taking place have seen, during the project, planning applications approved for the exploration for shale gas and hydraulic fracturing.
It is widely recognised that there is a need for good environmental baseline data and establishment of effective monitoring protocols ahead of any shale gas/oil development. This monitoring will enable future changes that may occur as a result of industrial activity to be identified and differentiated from other natural and man-made changes that are influencing the baseline. Continued monitoring will then enable any deviations from the baseline, should they occur, to be identified and investigated independently to determine the possible causes, sources and significance to the environment and public health. The absence of such data in the United States has undermined public confidence, led to major controversy and inability to identify and effectively deal with impact/contamination where it has occurred.
A key aim of this work is to avoid a similar situation and the independent monitoring being carried out as part of this project provides an opportunity to develop robust environmental baseline for the two study areas and monitoring procedures, and share experience that is applicable to the wider UK situation. This work is internationally unique and comprises an inter-disciplinary researcher-led programme that is developing, testing and implementing monitoring methodologies to enable future environmental changes to be detected at a local scale (individual site) as well as across a wider area, e.g. ‘shale gas play’ where cumulative impacts may be significant. The monitoring includes: water quality (groundwater and surface water), seismicity, ground motion, soil gas, atmospheric composition (greenhouse gases and air quality) and radon in air.
Recent scientific and other commissioned studies have highlighted that credible and transparent monitoring is key to gaining public acceptance and providing the evidence base to demonstrate the industry’s impact on the environment and importantly on public health. As a result, BGS and its partners initiated in early 2015, a co-ordinated programme of environmental monitoring in Lancashire that was then extended to the Vale of Pickering in North Yorkshire after the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (BEIS) awarded a grant to the British Geological Survey (BGS). The current duration of the grant award is to 31st March 2018. It has so far enabled baseline environmental monitoring for a period of more than 12 months. With hydraulic fracturing of shale gas likely to take place during late 2017/early 2018, the current funding will allow the environmental monitoring to continue during the transition from baseline to monitoring during shale gas operations.
This report presents the monitoring results to April 2017 and a preliminary interpretation. A full interpretation is not presented in this report as monitoring is continuing and it is expected that there will be at least six months of additional baseline data before hydraulic fracturing takes place. This represents up to 50% more data for some components of the montoring, and when included in the analysis will significantly improve the characterisation and interpretation of the baseline.
In addition to this report, the BGS web site contains further information on the project, near real-time data for some components of the monitoring and links to other projects outputs, e.g. reports and videos (www.bgs.ac.uk/research/groundwater/shaleGas/monitoring/home.html).
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages163
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017

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