Air quality monitoring near the Kirby Misperton gas well, conducted by NCAS and BGS scientists, has found that although full fracking never took place, the preoperational part of the development led to some air pollutants increasing in the vicinity of the rural site to levels more commonly seen in a city.

Professor Ally Lewis, NCAS Director of Science and Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry at the University of York, explains that the cause was the large number of lorry movements needed to supply and maintain equipment, plus diesel generators and compressors.

“The largest, most visible detectable impacts above the surface are on nitrogen oxides (NOx), from the use of compressors, generators and truck movements.

And, strangely, in the case of Kirby Misperton, from policing, from [police] vehicles and protest camps. It’s a slightly unusual situation in that the activity of protesting itself is a large source of pollution.”

He said that tactics such as slow walking in front of lorries supplying the site would have increased NOx emissions, along with unplanned vehicles associated with protesters, from the police, media and others were also a “significant” source. Monitoring had previously also detected wintertime particulate pollution that Professor Lewis believed to have come from wood fires at nearby protest camps.

The overall air quality emissions at the site, while it was prepared for fracking, were thought to be broadly similar in size and nature to the impacts that might arise from a single supermarket. Importantly however, the concentrations observed did not breach regulatory limits.

Professor Ally Lewis recently gave evidence at a Science Media Centre briefing event titled ‘Fracking in the UK - what does the evidence say?’ and has been quoted by The Guardian and BBC.

More information about the ongoing research on air pollution levels at Kirby Misperton, the Third Energy shale gas exploration site, can be found here: https://www.bgs.ac.uk/research/groundwater/shaleGas/monitoring/AirQuality.html