Risks of fire or explosion from fracking

John Wilkinson made this Freedom of Information request to Health and Safety Executive

This request has been closed to new correspondence. Contact us if you think it should be reopened.

The request was successful.

Dear Health and Safety Executive,

What advice have you sought or been given in relation to the risks of fire and explosion if fracking exploration or production is permitted near to, under or through an existing active or latent oil and/or gas field? Are such risks exacerbated, and capable of being spread, if the existing energy extraction locations are located over faults in the bedrock?

[Please note that I have already made this request (FOI2016/24242 on 22/9/2016) to the Oil and Gas Authority and they responded on the 24th October 2016 advising me that they do not hold this information and recommending that I contact you.]

Yours faithfully,

John Wilkinson

Health and Safety Executive

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Health and Safety Executive

Dear Mr. Wilkinson

 

Freedom of Information Request Reference No: 201610377

 

Thank you for your request for information about:

 

What advice have you sought or been given in relation to the risks of fire
and explosion if fracking exploration or production is permitted near to,
under or through an existing active or latent oil and/or gas field? Are
such risks exacerbated, and capable of being spread, if the existing
energy extraction locations are located over faults in the bedrock?

 

Your request was received on 27th October 2016 and I am dealing with it
under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act).

 

HSE has not sought or received advice as you outline in your request,
however we can explain how our regulatory regime deals with such issues
and how operators can achieve compliance with the law.

 

The main hazard from an oil or gas well is an uncontrolled release of
hydrocarbons due to a failure of the well structure, which may then reach
a source of ignition leading to a fire or explosion. Therefore the thrust
of HSE’s regulatory activity in onshore/offshore oil and gas wells is
about ensuring well integrity for the life of the well. Regulations state
that operators must ensure that a well is designed, modified,
commissioned, constructed, equipped, operated, maintained, suspended and
abandoned so that risks from it are as low as reasonably practicable.

 

Regulation 6 of the Borehole Sites and Operations Regulations 1995 [BSOR]
requires a formal notification to HSE, before any work starts, that calls
on operators to assess the geology and state of the formations. Among
other things the notification must supply details of the depth and
direction of the well and its position in relation to nearby wells and
mine workings.

 

In addition, the Offshore Installations and Wells (Design and Construction
etc) Regulations 1996 [DCR] call on operators to conduct an assessment of
conditions below ground before the design of a well is commenced. The
well-operator must assess the geological strata and formations, and fluids
within them, through which it may pass; and any hazards which these may
contain. Regulation 14 of DCR states that a well operator is required to
take all appropriate steps to obtain predictions of the sub-surface
environment which can be expected in the well.

 

These should be as accurate as possible. Where information is limited they
should identify potential ‘worst case’ conditions.

 

So far as is reasonably practicable, all potential hazards and
circumstances likely to lead to unsafe well conditions should be
identified by the well-operator, including not only formations which may
pose a hazard directly, but also those which may affect the ability to
control a hazardous situation (e.g. potential loss zones, zones with the
potential for causing stuck pipe and over-pressured plastic salt
formations).

 

Well-operators should ensure that sufficient measurement is taken of well
conditions and sub-surface properties while drilling the well. This
ensures that the predictions of the sub-surface environment continue to be
valid and the design assumptions of the well continue to be suitable.

 

The operator is also required to have an emergency plan in place which
forms part of a health and safety document. The emergency plan will detail
how the operator (who is responsible for managing the health and safety
risks) and workers and contractors on site will monitor, detect, and
prevent fires and explosions. The plan must also set out how they should
react to an emergency and the equipment and training they will have in
place to ensure that any emergency situation is dealt with effectively. 

 

 

If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me. Please
remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

 

If you are unhappy with the decisions made by HSE you may ask for an
internal review within two calendar months of the date of this letter by
writing to me.

 

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review you have
the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a
decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:

 

Information Commissioner’s Office

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

Cheshire

SK9 5AF

Tel: 01625 545700

Fax: 01625 524510

Email: [email address]

Website: http://www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk

 

Yours sincerely

 

Helen Watt

FOI Officer

 

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To FOI Officer, Health and Safety Executive

Dear Ms. Watt,
Many thanks for your detailed response to my request.
I wonder though if you could clarify whether an operator's emergency plan has to be discussed and agreed with potentially affected Fire and Rescue Authorities?

Yours sincerely,

John Wilkinson

Health and Safety Executive

Thank you for emailing the Health and Safety Executive. This is an automatic acknowledgement to tell you we have received your email.

Please note this email account is for the submitting of FOI requests via the 'whatdotheyknow' website only. For all other FOIs requests please refer to http://www.hse.gov.uk/foi/your-right-to-...

HSE publishes a comprehensive range of information and guidance on our website. You can find out what the health and safety law requires by searching under the relevant topic or industry section, and all of our publications are free to download. HSE does not operate a telephone helpline for general health and safety information. If you need to engage the services of a health and safety consultant, you may wish to visit the Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register (OSHCR).

If your email is a request for advice, please visit http://www.hse.gov.uk/contact/informatio...

If your email is about a concern, please visit http://www.hse.gov.uk/contact/complaints...

If you wish to report an incident, please visit http://www.hse.gov.uk/riddor/index.htm

Thank you for contacting the Health and Safety Executive.

Health and Safety Executive

1 Attachment

To Mr Wilkinson,

 

In relation to your follow up question, please find the attached BSOR
guidance and emergency services document that will hopefully answer your
question.

 

Kind Regards

 

Helen Watt

FOI Officer

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