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), has been conducting an independent environmental baseline monitoring programme in the Vale of Pickering, North Yorkshire since September 2015.

The investigation began following the submission of a planning application to conduct hydraulic fracturing for shale gas at a site in Kirby Misperton, for which consent was granted in 2016. Following subsequent appeals, protests, government review and the 2019 moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in England, no hydraulic fracturing operations have been undertaken at the site. In early 2020, the site operator indicated an intention to drop plans for shale–gas exploration in favour of alternative conventional hydrocarbon developments.


Environmental monitoring was initiated in the area in response to widespread public concern over the potential environmental impacts of shale–gas exploration. The monitoring has allowed us to characterise the environmental baseline in an area originally earmarked for shale–gas exploration and where conventional hydrocarbon extraction has been established for several decades.

The monitoring in and around the Vale of Pickering includes:

Current status of monitoring

The monitoring programme was initiated for all activities in September 2015. The activities over the project period, include:

  • Monitoring the quality of groundwater and surface water using an established network of monitoring sites across the vale
  • 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 6 surface sites and 4 sites installed in new boreholes
  • Conducting real–time monitoring of atmospheric greenhouse gases and indicators of air quality at and close to the proposed hydrocarbon exploration site (KMA)
  • Streaming of real–time data to the BGS website
  • Evaluating soil gas compositions from surveys at selected strategic 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 to the area into the foreseeable future, 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, 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 in order to ensure evidence-based and impartial scientific outputs. Real-time data and information and summary results on the monitoring activities are provided in the linked BGS web pages.


Contact BGS enquiries for further information.