OR/18/026 Introduction

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R S Ward1, P L Smedley1, G Allen2, B J Baptie1, M R Cave1, Z Daraktchieva3, R Fisher5, D Hawthorn1, D G Jones1, A Lewis4, D Lowry5, R Luckett1, B P Marchant1, R M Purvis4 and S Wilde4. 2018. Environmental baseline monitoring: phase III final report (2017–2018). British Geological Survey Internal Report, OR/18/026.

With contributions from:
E J Bradley3, M Bowes1, M Coleman5, A Horleston6, C H Howarth3, R Fisher5, M Lanoisellé5, T R Lister1, C A Miller3, C J Milne1, J Pitt2, M O Rivett7, A K A P Barkwith1 and J M Wasikiewicz3

(1): British Geological Survey
(2): University of Manchester
(3): Public Health England
(4): University of York (National Centres for Atmospheric Science)
(5): Royal Holloway University of London
(6): University of Bristol
(7): GroundH2O Plus

This report details the results of activities carried out during the period April 2017 to March 2018 in compliance with the conditions set out in the grant awarded to the British Geological Survey (BGS) to support the jointly-funded ‘Science-based environmental baseline monitoring’ project. Results are presented of monitoring/measurement and ongoing interpretation of environmental data that together contribute to characterisation of the baseline conditions in the Vale of Pickering, North Yorkshire and, for air quality, the Fylde in Lancashire. This database is gathered ahead of any shale-gas development in the area(s) of investigation. At the time of writing, ministerial approval is awaited for initiation of shale-gas exploration including hydraulic fracturing at the Kirby Misperton site (KM8), Vale of Pickering. For background to the monitoring programme, the reader is referred to previous reports detailed on the BGS website: www.bgs.ac.uk/research/groundwater/shaleGas/monitoring/home.html. The website also contains additional background information, summary data and near real-time data for air and water quality and for seismic monitoring.

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 deviations from the baseline, should they occur, to be identified and investigated independently to determine the possible cause(s)and significance to the environment and public health.

Credible and transparent monitoring is key to gaining public acceptance of the evidence base on the industry’s environmental and public-health impact. With this remit, BGS and its partners in early 2015 initiated a coordinated programme of environmental monitoring in Lancashire that was then extended to the Vale of Pickering after BEIS awarded a grant to the British Geological Survey (BGS). The monitoring programme has continued, anticipating that the baseline condition may have transitioned to operational monitoring over the grant period. This did not happen and so the activities carried out during April 2017 to March 2018 have continued to augment the robust databases that are contributing to characterisation of the environmental baseline. The exception is air quality, where preparations for hydraulic fracturing (plant movement/installation) in Autumn 2017 resulted in changes in air quality. The monitoring has also enabled development of monitoring procedures and techniques, as well as building experience and expertise of wider application in the UK unconventional hydrocarbons context. The monitoring includes: water quality (groundwater and surface water), seismicity, soil gas, atmospheric composition (greenhouse gases and air quality) and radon in air; the interdisciplinary approach is internationally unique.