Environmental baseline monitoring in the Vale of Pickering

Sampling streamwater for baseline chemical characteristics, Vale of Pickering.

BGS, along with the universities of Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, Royal Holloway and York and partners from Public Health England (PHE), conducted an independent environmental baseline monitoring programme in the Vale of Pickering, North Yorkshire.

The investigation was initiated as a result of planning permission being granted in 2016 to oil and gas operator, Third Energy, to explore for shale gas by high-volume hydraulic fracturing at its Kirby Misperton site. Subsequent failure to obtain final government consent and the imposition of the 2019 moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for exploration in England meant that no hydraulic-fracturing operations were ever undertaken at the site. In early 2020, the site operator indicated an intention to drop plans for shale-gas exploration in favour of alternative subsurface energy developments.


The environmental monitoring programme was initiated in response to widespread public concern over the potential environmental impacts of new shale-gas exploration and was planned to continue through operations should they take place. The monitoring was separate from that conducted by the site operator.

The monitoring in and around the Vale of Pickering included:

The activities included:

  • Monitoring the quality of groundwater and surface water using an established network of monitoring sites
  • Monitoring groundwater quality and water levels in newly established boreholes drilled into the local shallow aquifer
  • Conducting time-integrated indoor and outdoor measurements of radon in air
  • Conducting real-time monitoring of seismicity at six surface sites and four sites installed in new boreholes
  • Conducting real-time monitoring of atmospheric greenhouse gases and indicators of air quality at and close to the former proposed exploration site (KMA)
  • Streaming of real-time data to the BGS website
  • Evaluating soil gas compositions from surveys at selected sites
  • Interpretation of satellite data for assessment of ground motion
  • Continuing an analogous environmental monitoring programme around a site of hydrocarbon exploration in Lancashire

Establishment of the environmental baseline

While the original remit of the project to establish a baseline ahead of shale-gas exploration no longer applies in the area, the project has served to provide robust environmental data for air, water, ground motion and soil. This has helped provide insights into natural, urban and industrial processes that impact on air and water quality including deep groundwater, guidance for monitoring nearfield natural and induced seismic events, testing of new and developing technologies for monitoring (including in real time), and insights into protocols and practice for sound environmental monitoring and data evaluation. The monitoring has been independent of the hydrocarbon industry and regulators to ensure evidence-based and impartial scientific outputs.


Contact BGS enquiries for further information.