What are we monitoring?

Quality of groundwater and surface water

BGS, in collaboration with the Universities of Bristol, Birmingham and Loughborough, will investigate the chemistry of groundwater and surface water by sampling:


Seismicity will be investigated by seismologists from BGS and the Universities of Liverpool and Bristol. Urban centres (e.g. Blackpool, Preston) make seismic response noisy. In both study areas, obtaining meaningful low-magnitude signals requires a high-density array and experimentation with new sensors below surface, i.e. in boreholes.

New surface seismometers have been deployed at monitoring sites in both Lancashire and Yorkshire for monitoring background seismicity for improved detection of natural earthquakes and also events induced by human activity. Novel instruments will also be tested in newly-drilled boreholes. A new laser activated fibre-optic system is being developed in the UK for this purpose.

Seismicity investigation in Lancashire

Atmospheric composition assessment

Atmospheric scientists from the University of Manchester and University of York (NCAS) are conducting investigations into baseline occurrence and variability in atmospheric composition and will monitor for evidence of change.

In Lancashire, background methane and carbon dioxide concentrations have been measured continuously since late 2014 at a fixed location close to one of the proposed shale-gas well sites. These, together with meteorological information, e.g. wind direction, are being used to characterise variations in both natural and existing manmade inputs to the near surface atmosphere before any shale-gas activity starts. A similar site investigation is planned in the Vale of Pickering, Yorkshire. Additional monitoring equipment in also being set up at both sites for measurement of a suite of air-quality parameters such as Particulate Matter (PM), NO2 (from e.g. generators, traffic, plant, flares, dust and materials handling), VOCs and non-methane hydrocarbons.

Atmospheric composition in Lancashire

Atmospheric composition in the Vale of Pickering

Ground motion (subsidence and uplift)

InSAR satellite

In the areas of investigation, BGS is carrying out an analysis of how the ground surface has changed over time, either through natural processes or as a result of human development (mining, road building, etc). This uses satellite-based radar data that allows millimetric changes in ground elevation to be detected.

Ground surface change analysis in Lancashire

Soil and Near–Surface Gas Monitoring

Soil and near surface gas monitoring will be carried out by scientists from the British Geological Survey. In Lancashire, background concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), oxygen (O2), hydrogen sulphide (H2S) and radon (Rn) have been measured in the soil. In addition, CO2 flux (the rate at which the gas is coming out of the ground) has also been measured. These measurements provide baseline data collected prior to any shale gas related operations in the area.

Similar baseline monitoring is being carried out in the Vale of Pickering. Near–surface atmospheric gases (CO2 and CH4) may be measured using laser gas analysers mounted on a quad bike or similar all–terrain vehicle. This makes continuous measurements as the vehicle is driven across the fields.

Soil gas monitoring in Lancashire

Soil gas monitoring in the Vale of Pickering

Radon in air

As part of the environmental monitoring investigation, measurement of radon in air will be carried out by Public Health England. The project will involve measurement of baseline concentrations of radon both in the open air and in homes.

Radon monitoring in the Vale of Pickering


Contact BGS enquiries for further information.