Please let us know of any incidents and we’ll add them to this dossier.
A loud bang was heard from the site, reported by residents over a kilometre away. The drilling fluid hose broke loose and swung down, smashing into the drilling cabin, breaking the window, and spraying the area with muddy drilling fluid. Workers were heard coughing and spluttering.
A few days previously on 19th Jan, in what seemed a minor incident at the time, the hose was seen swinging around at height (see incident below).
Rathlin Energy said:
“There was a minor mechanical incident today at the company’s West Newton A well site. A hose containing water for drilling detached and struck the rig’s drill cabin.
“The current operation, which involves a small conductor setting rig, is not dissimilar to a farmer drilling a water borehole. The subsurface operation was not affected.
“The emergency services were not required to deal with this matter and Humberside Fire and Rescue has since confirmed this to be the case.
“The relevant regulatory authorities have been notified in accordance with Rathlin Energy (UK) Limited’s Safety Management System and the team is looking into what happened.”
HSE Will Not Be Investigating – Relies on Self Regulation
Gold Standard Regulation? The Environment Agency assured us the HSE would investigate. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) have stated that they will not be investigating this incident:
“HSE does not investigate everything that is reported to us, only the most serious work-related incidents, injuries or cases of ill health – in line with our incident selection criteria.
This incident was not reportable to HSE under the Reporting of Incidents, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) and we will not be investigating it.
Operators are responsible for managing risks. HSE ensures they comply with health and safety regulations and that they prevent, so far as reasonably practicable, those working at the site or others who could be affected by the work from suffering injury or ill health.”
– HSE Energy Division, 5th Feb 2019
19th Jan – Hissing, Grinding, Cable Wrapped, Hose Swinging
There was a loud hissing, and the drill was reported to be making loud grinding and scraping noises. A cable became wrapped around the drill. The drilling fluid hose was swinging around quite significantly. A few days later the drilling hose broke off with a bang (see incident above).
Dec 2018-ongoing – Multiple Breaches Of The Traffic Management Plan
Rathlin Energy are failing to follow some very basic requirements of the Traffic Management Plan. If they can’t even manage these, how can they be trusted with a complex and high risk engineering project like drilling and testing an oil and gas well?
Vehicles Failing To Display Required Signs – 15 Breaches so far
“2 ACCESS ROUTE
All vehicles are to display the Rathlin Energy logo sign … in their cab at all times when travelling to and from the site.“ – Traffic Management Plan
Dec 2018 – Jan 2019: Vehicles attending West Newton A wellsite are failing to display Rathlin Energy signs. This includes Marriott Drilling themselves
These breaches have been reported so frequently that it can no longer be put down to occasional, accidental lapses. Rathlin Energy and their closest operators seem to be once again deliberately choosing to flagrantly breach the Traffic Management Plan that they submitted, and promised to abide by. This is symptomatic of their attitude to operate however they want, and not how they should. They know they can get away with this because East Riding Council takes no enforcement action against them.
Failure To Erect Signage Along The Prescribed Route
Signs directing vehicles to the West Newton Wellsite are to be erected along the prescribed access route. These will start at the turning from the junction of the A165 and lead to the site entrance off Pipers Lane. …” – Traffic Management Plan
3rd Dec 2018: Site Operations recommence, no signs have been erected.
9th Dec: Still no signs. Reported to East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC).
14th Dec: See if you can spot the signs. Imagine you are driving an HGV along the busy 40mph A165, looking for the turning. After the village of New Ellerby, vehicles should be at 25mph.
The point of the Traffic Management Plan is to ensure the safety of the public by minimising the risk from the increased number of heavy vehicles. These inconspicuous, tiny print signs clearly cannot be considered practical nor safe for HGV drivers to negotiate from a busy main road to small rural lanes.
In West Sussex, managing director of Angus Energy Paul Vonk informed the Community Liaison Group that, “Our core objective, other than doing a well test, was not to have any protest, so the last thing we wanted to do was put up signage… we wanted to stay out of the radar – so we know we are going to be in breach of the traffic management plan.” It would seem that Rathlin Energy also has a culture of deliberately breaking rules where they can get away with it.
ERYC state, “in connection with signage erected, directing vehicles to the Rathlyn [sic] site … the signage as erected meets with the TMP and that therefore there is no further action to be taken by the Council”.
Articulated HGV Does Not Follow Prescribed Route, Performs Unsupervised Reversing Manoeuvre
4th Dec 2018: The vehicle missed the Pipers Lane turning towards the wellsite, presumably as a result of the required signs not being present, and continued towards West Newton village.
“2 ACCESS ROUTE
2. A temporary speed limit of 25mph for all drivers from New Ellerby to the wellsite; this must be adhered to at all times.” – Traffic Management Plan [red emphasis in the original document]
11th Dec 2018: A Watts Mix cement mixer on the narrow single track Fosham Lane approaching West Newton wellsite to make a delivery, and appearing to be over the 25mph speed limit.
ERYC state, “Rathlyn [sic] contacted Watts regarding this incident and they have seen evidence that the vehicle in question was indeed observing the speed restrictions, doing no more than 23.6 mph on Pipers lane.”.
9th Jan 2019 – Inadequately Secured Load
Cuadrilla’s Gas Rig at West Newton Was Not Certified
- A Health & Safety Investigation has revealed that the rig used at Rathlin Energy’s well site in Holderness was operating without a valid Declaration of Conformity
- The rig is owned by infamous fracking company Cuadrilla Resources and was used to frack Preese Hall well near Blackpool, causing the 2011 earthquakes that lead to the UK wide fracking moratorium.
In October 2014 a worker on the West Newton well site was seen climbing the rig at height without a safety harness. A ‘protector’ camped at the site and a local resident witnessed the incident and sent video footage to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).
The HSE took the matter so seriously they conducted a thorough investigation, the results of which have now been made public. They concluded that the video footage was not of good enough quality to determine for definite whether or not the worker was connected to fall arrest equipment.
However the investigation discovered that the rig is owned by fracking company Cuadrilla, was imported in 2010, and was never certified for use in the UK.1
The report states that Marriott Drilling (who lease the rig), “claimed to have done a lot of ‘soul searching’ since the complaint and thoroughly reviewed the issue of safe working up the rig mast.”2 and as a result made design improvements to the rig.3
A Freedom of Information request revealed the rig had been deployed to numerous Cuadrilla sites, including Preese Hall near Blackpool in 2011.
The rig was used to carry out the only high volume hydraulic fracturing job ever done in the UK in April & May 2011, causing the widely reported earthquakes, which led to the UK fracking moratorium. A DECC report stated there were a “total of 50 seismic events in the magnitude range -2 to 2.3 ML“ and concluded “that the observed seismicity was induced by the hydraulic fracture treatments at Preese Hall.”
Frack Free East Yorkshire says: We were promised gold standard regulation with no risk. What we got was 19 breaches of EA permit in 6 months, an emergency well shutdown, noxious smells for weeks on end, and a Cuadrilla fracking rig not even certified for use in the UK – but it was half a decade before anybody noticed. This is fundamental stuff. And now the regulators are being cut to the bone – how will they cope with hundreds of new gas wells spreading across our countryside like a pox?
- HSE Report, p16, Section 5.2:
“The workover rig is known as ESR-550 … brought into the UK in 2010
The workover rig is owned by Cuadrilla and is leased commercially to Marriott Drilling
In conjunction with Cuadrilla, it [Marriott Drilling] had recently reviewed the certification of the rig and found that although the rig identification plate carried the CE and ATEX marks and technical and operational information had been provided, the EC Declaration of Conformity was not signed. Subsequent investigation by Cuadrilla and Marriott Drilling had revealed that when the rig arrived in the UK, the conformity assessment by Intertek was about 95% complete but not finished.
On discovering this Cuadrilla arranged for the conformity assessment to be repeated … scheduled to be completed within 6 weeks”
- bottom of p16
Section 9 Final Design Outcome., p21Photographs of a new gantry and handrails added to rig. Figs 24 & 25
Breach of Lighting Conditions – Crawberry Hill, November 2015
The site is dazzlingly lit at night as work continues way past the permitted operating hours.
Planning Condition 3 states that they must comply with a lighting plan:
“… lighting shall be installed only in accordance with these details [the lighting plan]. This condition is imposed to reduce the likelihood of light pollution in the open countryside and protecting the Wolds Area of High Landscape Value and visual amenities of the area”.
Work hours should be from 7am to 6pm:
“… the requirements for lighting of the site relate to the undertaking of decommissioning, monitoring and restoration phases of development. It is noted that the working hours for the restoration phase are restricted to between the hours of 7.00-18.00 and that any requirements to light the site will be restricted to a fixed period during these hours and will therefore not result in any intrusive light effects during the night hours (i.e. between the hours of 18.00-0700).
December 2014 – Seismic testing damages several properties & lake
Several properties and a lake in the West Newton area have been damaged by seismic testing carried out by Rathlin Energy. One property was damaged so severely it will have to be demolished and rebuilt.
Seismic testing involves setting off explosive charges and monitoring the echoes over a wide area in order to gather information about the underground geology and potential petroleum reserves. It has caused untold damage worldwide.
Residents near Marton and Sproately reported loud explosions, walls shaking, and a heavy Aga cooker jumped off the ground. Several properties were damaged, including structural damage. Luxury holiday chalets had their windows blown out. Legal action is underway.
Then a commercial fishing lake started losing water. At first Rathlin Energy acted quickly to have mains water pumped in, but as tap water is chlorinated this would eventually poison the fish. Rathlin Energy then pulled out and it was left to solicitors.
Very worryingly, it is believed Rathlin Energy has made payments to some property owners, but only on condition that they sign a non-disclosure agreement, aka a gagging agreement. ie; they can’t talk about it. This tactic has been very effective in silencing the impacts of the oil and gas industry in the US. It seems to be working in this case, as none of the damage has been reported in the press.
If you have anything to report, as ever, please do get in touch.
West Newton Wellsite: 19 Breaches of EA Permit
The Environment Agency (EA) is taking enforcement action against Rathlin Energy after 19 breaches of the EA permit between July 2014 and January 2015, including multiple releases of gas from the well head.
More details in this investigation by Drill Or Drop.
Rathlin Energy (UK) Limited, Activities at the West Newton Well Site
Detailed report gathering together a range of publicly available evidence.
Oct 2014 – Rathlin Energy Poisons Wildlife
Many mammals died in the drainage ditches around the site.
Rathlin Energy told East Riding Council, when seeking Planning Permission for West Newton B, that protestor’s claims that Rathlin were poisoning wildlife were untrue:
“there have been suggestions that we have: Poisoned local wildlife – this is completely untrue.” [their highlighting] – Rathlin Energy, Nov 2014: Exhibition Panels, “Facts & Evidence Based Consultation”.
The EA said:
“The operator is carrying out vermin control on site using rodenticide in bait boxes and that is believed to be contributing to the numbers of small dead mammals found in the open section of the containment ditch.” – Environment Agency, Compliance Assessment Report, 10th Oct 2014
Sept-Oct – Gas Leaks & Noxious Smells, West Newton
28th Aug “Very strong smell of gas/H2S” – EA Site Visit Report
10th Sept “extremely strong hydrocarbon type odour present on site” – EA Site Visit Report
“Following communication with the Environment Agency Rathlin Energy voluntarily suspended well testing operations at the West Newton Well Site.” – EA
19th Sep – Reported in The Guardian
“… site making locals ‘sick from noxious smells'”
“The smell is hideous, very distinctive, pungent and nauseous. It comes in waves. It started last week and has continued since. It fades in and out. The area where they are drilling is very rural and the smell drifts easily a mile away. Depending on the wind, it has at times reached villages like West Newton and Withernwick”.
The EA believed, “the smell was caused by small quantities of natural gas from the well venting via the flare.”
Rathlin said the smell was, “a combination of a number of naturally occurring constituents within the gas being tested”. They were usually burned but, “at very low flow pressure, methane, together with the heavier gases, are not being fully incinerated and their respective odours are being emitted”
Sandra Baxter, who lives in the house closest to the site, wrote: “I could not go outside on Friday had to ring envi health my eyes were watering and stinging throat feeling weird and could not stop coughing”.
24th Sept EA gave its agreement to re-commencement of well testing operations
2 occasions: Bad smells – local resident, reported to EA. References & dates to follow.
14th Oct Bad smell – reported by visitor to site: “bad smell again, downwind i.e. at the back of the camp. EA phoned.”
29th Oct, 1240 Bad smells – reported by another local resident, EA Notified
Numerous other occasions local residents & visitors to site have reported bad smells, sore throats and headaches.
22nd Oct – Problems continue at West Newton
Well intervention Equipment is back on site (blue, with wire line running over the top to reel at ground level).
Scaffolding covers the whole rig (white, behind).
6th Oct – Unsafe Working at Height?
One of the 20 main impacts of extreme energy is dangerous working conditions, and we’ve seen many breaches of H&S on Rathlin Energy’s sites, such as not wearing hard hats within the compound.
This is example appears to show a worker climbing the rig without harness.
The HSE investigated. See near the top of this page for the revelations the HSE report contained: Cuadrilla’s Gas Rig at West Newton Was Not Certified
14th Sept – Gas Flaring, West Newton
People present when flaring occurs, even for short periods, are reporting sore throats and headaches.
23rd & 24th August – Beacon Security Cover Their Vehicle Reg. Plates, Crawberry Hill
This was reported to the police, who didn’t respond on the first occasion, but responded quickly on the second occasion. It is believed the offender received a caution.
12th August – Mini-frack test goes wrong, West Newton
2nd August: Rathlin Energy Field Manager confirms they are currently conducting a mini-frack on the Bowland Shale. Video here.
4th August: “Very shortly we hope to be able to announce that, at West Newton, we have completed all the work we intend to do in the lower formations of the well, including the evaluation of the Bowland Shale.” – Rathlin Energy newsletter [ie; the mini frack test]
14th August: Well Intervention Equipment, that costs thousands a day to hire, is spotted heading to West Newton by one of the protectors. A member of Frack Free East Yorkshire contacts the HSE.
“Rathlin were carrying out work/cleaning within the well.
They are shutting down the well because there is a small increase in pressure between two of the well casings caused by formations from activity.
They have sent equipment to site to deal with this, and to put down the well to investigate the cause.
The HSE are seeking verification and monitoring the issue, but there is no one from the HSE present on site. We are relying on Rathlin’s duty to keep us informed. They have to provide a weekly report, however out of courtesy Rathlin informed the HSE 2 days ago” – HSE
14th August: The Environment Agency were unaware of the incident.
16th Sept: Despite spending £millions drilling an extra thousand metres or so deeper than the conventional reserves, and applying for an onerous EA Permit that included a controversial mini-frack, and despite all the furore around this test…
Rathlin state in their ‘Community’ Liaison Committee Meeting Minutes that they suddenly changed their mind and decided not to carry out the mini-frack after all.
They do not even mention, never mind explain, why well intervention equipment was mobilised to site, or what went wrong.
We can only assume that things must have gone very badly wrong indeed for them to abandon 2 of their 3 planned tests, but as no regulatory bodies visited the site neither the regulators, nor we, are ever likely to know the details of what really happened.
(All of those liaison meeting minutes are available on the West Newton page)
The West Newton well site, which they had hoped would become a commercially producing site, is then mothballed, and Rathlin Energy apply for a new well site a couple of fields away – West Newton B.
21st July – more dead hares, Crawberry Hill
There is meant to be a stock fence round the site. There is a mature hedge on the south side of the site as well as the stock fence which is supposed to keep the site secure. We have seen rabbits coming through the fence onto the site and it is likely the hares got in that way.
The obvious issue is the lack of fresh water sources on this high chalkland. The creation of a long trough full of water must have been very attractive. The plastic film on the side of the trench would be too slippery for the hares to climb out easily – no idea if they can swim – so we guess they panicked and drowned.
11th July – West Newton ditch full
5th July – dead hare in West Newton Ditch
2nd July – 2 breaches of Planning Conditions, West Newton
Failure to give 14 days notice of commencement of activities (Condition 2)
64 vehicles arrived in large convoys. The traffic management plan states no convoys, with a minimum of 10 minutes between vehicles.
1st June – spill off pad, West Newton
29th May – leaky tank, spills onto fields, Crawberry Hill
This was not reported as repaired until August.
More photos/videos here.
23rd May – flood off pad on to neighbouring path & fields, West Newton
11th May – overflowing ditch, West Newton
Brown Sludge Spill in New Ellerby street
A report from a resident of New Ellerby, close to the West Newton well site, described a spill during drilling operations:
“Brown sludge was spilt from one of Rathlin’s vehicles on the corner. It spread about 50m in either direction through the village”
Do you have any more information on this incident, e.g. date or photos? Please get in touch.