Depletion and risk to the Sherwood Sandstone aquifer
The aquifer provides drinking water for a wide area including Beverley, Market Weighton, Pocklington, Stamford Bridge, Walkington and Bishop Burton and there is an obvious risk to this continued uncontaminated supply.
- The proposed drilling will require a large amount of water to lubricate the drill.
- It will go through the aquifer as Rathlin Energy propose to drill the well to a depth of 2500m.
- A chemical mud will need to be disposed of and chemicals will be stored and used at the site.
The following is a copy of comments sent to the Planning Committee about the risks to the aquifer:
I have some concerns relating to potential for both harmful and malodourous gas emissions, plus possible contamination of the local water supply with cancer inducing chlorinated organic products.
Whilst it is highly likely that any reputable company will be well aware of these potential issues, I think it is well worth emphasising the potential risks and I strongly suggest that all members of the
planning committee are completely satisfied that adequate precautions are in place before any approval is granted
1) Gas emissions
Very many natural oil and gas deposits will contain the element sulphur in one form or another. Sulphur can react easily to produce many different compounds one of which is hydrogen sulphide ( the ‘bad egg’
gas). The presence of hydrogen sulphide in oil gives rise to the term ‘sour oil’. This is a highly toxic and foul smelling gas even in minute quantities, and the prevailing wind will blow any such fumes in the
direction of both Walkington and Bishop Burton.
The other range of compounds that may be formed come under the heading of mercaptans. These are even more toxic and foul smelling than hydrogen sulphide, although likely to be present in much lower
quantities. Mercaptans are normally produced commercially as an additive to processed natural gas (odourless) to make it smell as a warning of leaks.
Any such emissions can easily be dealt with by the use of chemical scrubbers, but these themselves involve the use of harmful chemicals with consequent concerns over safe handling and disposal in a rural
Before any planning application is approved I would suggest that ERYC ensure that air quality ( particularly the amount of hyrdrogen sulphide and sulphur dioxide) is being monitored 24/7, that all monitoring equipment is calibrated accurately and regularly and that all records are available for public inspection at any time
2) Contamination of water supply
All oil and gas bearing strata will contain a range of organic chemicals ( chemicals based on carbon) If these chemicals leach into the water supply it may be in the form of phenols ( based on the benzene ring)
As Yorkshire Water chlorinate the water, which they are legally bound to do, there is the potential for the formation of tri-chlorinated phenols or TCP in the water. Whilst this product is harmless when used
for gargling, it is designed to kill bacteria and prolonged exposure at even very low levels can be considered harmful and possibly carcinogenic.
The formation of TCP or other trihalomethanes (THMs) is a widespread problem in old industrial areas such as Bradford due to oil contamination of the water bearing aquifer. This is why Yorkshire Water carefully monitor the amounts of THMs in the drinking water supply
Procedures should be in place to monitor drinking water quality at at least 5 sentinel outlets in both Walkington and Bishop Burton on a weekly basis by independent Companies. The most important parameter will be the level of organics in the water
It should also be borne in mind that any contamination of the aquifer will affect an area stretching from Market Weighton, through Pocklington amd Stamford Bridge and into Beverley
3) Carbon footprint
The use of drilling equipment will produce carbon dioxide – Rathlin have conceded that diesel engines will be running 24 hours per day.
Have they provided information on the likely CO2 output over the expected lifetime of the project? There are strict Government guidelines on such emissions – without this essential information any planning application of this nature must be considered incomplete.
4) Life cycle anaylsis
All installations of this nature will have a quantifiable cost to the environment to set up, operate and break down. Any reputable company should provide such analysis before any consideration can be given to
approval – this is standard practice within the NHS for example (sometimes known as ‘cradle to grave’ costings)
5) Water abstraction
How much water will be required to formulate the drilling muds? Where will this be drawn from and what is the likely consequence on aquifer levels, particularly during times of drought?
6) Effluent disposal
What types and volumes of effluent are likely to be produced? What are the likely hazards of such effluents – have COSHH sheets been provided for any chemicals that may be stored on site. Without COSHH sheet data it would probably be considered illegal for any operation of this type to continue.
Further information on these points can be gained from a simple internet search.
I would suggest that if the above points are not addressed any planning application must be rejected. Incidences that may arise where sufficient precautions are not in place could lead to involvement of the HSE with consequent costly claims by both the HSE and any residents that may be affected.