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« Harry Huyton and avian perception | Main | Myles out of line »

Never trust a green

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the National Trust have just issued a joint report into the impact of shale gas development on the UK's environment. These being green organisations it's always fun to go and do some fact checking.

I picked on the "Wildlife disturbance" section, because in itself this seemed a bit unlikely. When I visited Dart Energy's sites near Stirling I noted their proximity to the M9 motorway. The iGas site near Manchester is right alongside the M62. And besides, the drilling process only lasts a few weeks, so it's hard to imagine any long-lasting impact.

The report makes this claim: the Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, 64 compressors (associated with shale gas extraction) outside the protected area, resulted in an average 34.8 decibel (dBA) rise above typical ambient sound within the park. Along the eastern border of the park, nearest to the highest density of compressors, sound levels increased by a mean of 56.8 dBA above ambient conditions. This compares to the US Environmental Protection Agency recommended “safe noise level” of 55 dBA.
The source cited for this claim is a paper by an NGO called the National Parks Conservation Association, which reveals a very important detail about the study that somehow didn't make it into the RSPB/NT paper.
A recent study modeled the impacts that compressors from oil and gas operations might have on Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. The study found that the sound of 64 compressors outside Mesa Verde elevated the sound level within the park by 34.8 decibels on average, and by 56.8 decibels on the eastern side of the park (which sits closest to the compressors).

Yes folks, you read that right - it's not a measurement of actual sound levels, this is a simulation (the original study is here) that has been reported as fact by our green friends.

As an aside, you might also like to consider how realistic this simulation is. As I understand it compressors are used as part of the drilling and fracking process. So I wonder about the likelihood of 64 sites operating simultaneously within a relatively small area.

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Reader Comments (56)

Funny how the RSPB rarely speaks out about the birds being sliced up by wind turbines.

I wonder what financial connections there are between the RSPB and Big Wind.

Mar 13, 2014 at 8:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

You have to say from the results of the model "so what". It was going to get loud but for how long and what effect would it have on the environment. 55dBA is not loud -what is the noise of a thunderclap? What about a anti-fraccing protest rally?
Birds are quite happy to try and nest at the end of airport runways. Animals live in artillery ranges. They can tolerate a lot of noise if the other factors compensate.

If a bit of noise is the biggest danger they can come up with, they are really scraping the bottom of the barrel

Mar 13, 2014 at 9:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterChrisM

And here is a noise survey for the Becconsall exploration site.

Although the document is assessing what the noise impact will be, it uses real measurements from real drilling rigs.

Mar 13, 2014 at 9:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

This is nice example of "climatese whispers". The misleading passage you quote comes from the summary report. But in the main report it says
"(Barber et al., 2011) modelled the noise impacts of compressors from oil and gas operations on the Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado..."

Reminiscent of the IPCC SPM and main report.

Mar 13, 2014 at 9:05 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Those noise levels are as nothing compared to the noise emitted by bird-mincing wind turbines. The impact of the noise also depends on the frequency of the noise, its variability with time and the atmospheric conditions. The noise from compressors can be suppressed, unlike the noise from wind turbines.

Mar 13, 2014 at 9:07 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Re: Paul Mathews

I see. So you can lie and mislead as much as you want in the summary report as long as the truth is somewhere in the main report?

Mar 13, 2014 at 9:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

The Royal Society for the Promulgation of Bullsh1te.

Mar 13, 2014 at 9:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterSpartacusisfree

Confirmation, as if we needed it, that the RSPB has been taken over by eco-nutters, big green is more important to them than their actual remit. I'll add the RSPB to the growing list of logo's I avoid when purchasing anything.

Mar 13, 2014 at 9:12 AM | Unregistered Commenterjaffa

One might wonder why the RSP needs a 'head of energy and climate change'. The amount of money these charities and other organisations waste must be enormous. Only the other day I was listening on the radio to words of wisdom from the NFU's climate change advisor. One would hope most farmers are too savvy and aware of the variability of the weather to take notice of advice about the future climate.

Mar 13, 2014 at 9:16 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Terry, yes, that's right, and in the next stage of the whispers process, the summary report will be exaggerated and further distorted by the media for presentation to the public.

Charmingquark, see this from the you-couldnt-make-it-up department.

Mar 13, 2014 at 9:17 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

I wonder what financial connections there are between the RSPB and Big Wind.

Mar 13, 2014 at 8:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

BIG MONEY. RSPB receives huge sums of money for the bird mincers on their land as do all large land owners including the plonker prince.

Mar 13, 2014 at 9:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Mesa Verde=green table

Mar 13, 2014 at 9:26 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

I do find it somewhat disturbing that the RSPCA can invest so much time in to reports like this and so little time in to reports on the impact a metal wing has on rare and endangered bird life travelling at 100mph.


Mar 13, 2014 at 9:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

No mention of the noise generated by the vehicles of the ornithologists and scientists all the time they're driving anywhere, particularly around town.

The noise values given are irrelevant without justifying the distance and field criteria. Eg @1m Free Field.

Mar 13, 2014 at 9:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

From Aunty today:

"Harry Huyton is head of energy and climate change at the RSPB.

He told BBC News: "We have found that there are serious potential risks to the environment from fracking.

"......This could mean lots of well pads all around the landscape. All of these could have an impact on wildlife."

I must have missed Harry's condemnation of the pads for windmills, and the areas occupied by solar panels.

Did any BH reader, by any chance, see them?

Mar 13, 2014 at 9:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

If you see an RSPB stand at your local shopping centre, aside from all the pretty pictures it will inevitably include the laughable phrase 'Stop Climate Chaos'. Ask them what that means. It always makes me chortle at the nonsense replies.

Mar 13, 2014 at 9:40 AM | Unregistered Commenterlindzen4pm

When presented with such information I always think back to the photograph here:

Mar 13, 2014 at 9:43 AM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

To compare. A wind turbine is 105db at source, dropping to 50db at 100m, 40db at 500m. I imagine some of the noise is also transmitted to the ground and the ocean. I wonder what they sound like to dolphins? Unfortunately the noise doesn't upset the birds or there wouldn't be so much bird pâté. The noise is intermittently transmitted for the lifetime of the turbine.

Mar 13, 2014 at 9:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Another fine example from "The truth is a bourgeois construct" division of Progressivism.

Mar 13, 2014 at 9:46 AM | Unregistered Commenterbill

Hmm wouldn't a study of the effects of noise on animal and bird life be better done at one of the numerous sanctuary's that exist next to airports and military airfields ? judging by the number of bird strikes each year the birdy's ain't that bothered that they leave the areas never to return ?

Mar 13, 2014 at 9:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterMat

Compressors are used to raise the pressure of low pressure gas to transmission pipeline pressure

There can be one compressor for many wells in an area and noise abatement measures can and probably would be required by regulation.

Sample noise levels:

Mar 13, 2014 at 10:11 AM | Unregistered Commenterggdon

But Paul (9:17 AM)

climate change … poses the single biggest threat to the long-term survival of birds and wildlife

They've got to slice up the birds now, it's for the long-term survival of all wildlife later. Seen correctly this is a heroic view of birdlife: they make the sacrifice for the good of all. And the RSPB is on hand to make sure they do. The Royal Society for Pioneering Bloodbaths. Please give your last tweet in support.

Mar 13, 2014 at 10:14 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

these are not independent institutes anymore
these are cheap shills and propaganda offices where the scum establishment parks buddies of theirs

fascism in construction

Mar 13, 2014 at 10:14 AM | Unregistered Commenterptw

It would appear the green chant is 'why tell the truth when a lie is much more effective'.

The other thing they fail to mention is the type of compressor used for their modelling exercise and if they are temporary or permanent sited. If temporary they would be open units and if permanent they would be enclosed in a sound shield.

Mar 13, 2014 at 10:17 AM | Unregistered Commenterivan

Is it just me or *all* charities converging on the same thing?

For want of a better word it's an agenda of "guardianity".

Mar 13, 2014 at 10:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

I asked a question of a local Green as to why the RSPB wasn't concerned about the lack of information on death rates of raptors near wind farms. He triumphantly produced a paper which concluded there was no case to answer. The paper was a study of Dunlin nesting sites.

Mar 13, 2014 at 10:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterKevin Lohse

The report refers to an increase in decibel levels but since the decibel scale is logarithmic it isn't clear what this means in terms of real noise, ie the power of the noise signals. An increase of 56.8 decibels above an ambient 10 decibels is only 1/1000th of the increase of 56.8 above an ambient 40 decibels.

Mar 13, 2014 at 10:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterJPetch

Even the BBC discovered this morning the strategic importance of fracking, thanks to Vladimir and the Crimea. Expect charities to become softer and softer on the topic.

Mar 13, 2014 at 10:55 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

This made me laugh..
“given that water resources in many parts of the [country] are already under pressure” (Broderick et al., 2011).

Yeah the pressure of far too much water things change dramatically when you have a linear view of a highly nonlinear system.

Mar 13, 2014 at 10:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Thing is, RSPB, would you believe Kate Moss if she told you that she's only 25? No. That's the problem of using models: you can't believe a word they say.

Mar 13, 2014 at 11:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

I can hear the traffic from the M40 whilst in my garden a few hundred yards away, but not having a noise meter I have no idea how loud it is. But there seem to be plenty of birds around, and they are nesting as usual. They don't seem to be unduly disturbed by the motorway or my motor mower. Has the RSPB ever done a study of the effects on birds of the noise from motorways? Surely these cover a far greater area than any number of fracking sites.

Mar 13, 2014 at 11:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterEnglish Pensioner

Does the RSPB also have a view on the dangers of large scale solar farms frying birds? It has been extensively reported.

Mar 13, 2014 at 11:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterJRM Wheel

Maybe we should stop Farmer's using agricultaral equipment?

Mar 13, 2014 at 11:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterStacey

The world is full of gas compressors. The world is not full of people complaining about the noise of gas compressors. Very few people outside the industry know that they exist or where they are located.

This 2007 paper from the EIA gives some idea of the size of this non-issue.

People concerned about the effect of noise on wildlife should look at the number of deer vs. car collisions on freeways or the number of aircraft bird strikes in and around airports. If noises associated with human commerce have a negative effect on wildlife, I wouldn't have deer eating my shrubs or birds at my birdfeeder.

SEATTLE — Wildlife officials at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport have relocated two young red-tailed hawks from their nests as part of a program to prevent bird aircraft strikes.
[ ... ]
Since the airport program began in 2001, more than 200 raptors have been removed from nests to improve airport safety.

There are more than 1.6 million deer-vehicle collisions each year resulting in about 200 fatalities, tens of thousands of injuries and over $3.6 billion in vehicle damage. An additional billion dollars is spent on medical payments for injuries to people in the car and out-of-pocket expenses paid by vehicle owners, bringing the total cost to approximately $4.6 billion.

Mar 13, 2014 at 11:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterSpeed

A small point: the Barton Moss site is alongside the M62, not the M6. [BH adds: Thanks! fixed]

Another set of wells alongside a motorway is at Palmer's Wood, just South of the M25 and West of Oxted, Surrey and close to Mahommed al Fayed's home in Hogtrough Lane. These have been in operation since the first well was spudded in September 1983. True, they are oil, not gas, so they have nodding donkeys.

To compare: a 3MW windmill will produce perhaps 600kW on average, or 5.25Gwh p.a. for 20 years (probably less). That is about 3,100 boe per year, or 62,000 boe over its life. Palmer's Wood is expected to produce a total of almost 3.5 m bbl by the time it is scheduled to be abandoned in 2025. That makes it equivalent to 565 windmills in energy output. So far, 10 wells have been drilled at the two wellpad sites.

Mar 13, 2014 at 11:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

I love birdlife and I love our national heritage, but it's become impossible to support these organisations (and others like them), knowing that they divert their energies and our donations to promote the falsified theory of CAGW, which in any case was only tangentially related to their primary missions.

Mar 13, 2014 at 11:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterNeil McEvoy

Big green is a big enemy.

Mar 13, 2014 at 11:42 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

"Mahommed al Fayed's home in Hogtrough Lane"

It's not often I get a good laugh here!

Mar 13, 2014 at 11:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterNeil McEvoy

Harry Passfield: It's not considered good form to use models but if a 25-year-old Kate Moss will keep throwing herself at you I can understand. :)

Mar 13, 2014 at 11:49 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Neil, I think Yeo, Deben and Oxburgh live there too.

Mar 13, 2014 at 11:50 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

The RSPB, the RSPCA and the World Wildlife Fund have all departed from their core principals and have become political agitators. A great shame.

Mar 13, 2014 at 11:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterNeddy Packgood

In the meantime, those windymills which the RSPB are so keen on/quiet about, are producing a TRULY MASSIVE 572MW, 1.4% of (currently modest) electricity demand, or 8.5% of installed capacity...
But - hey - we're supposed to ignore the IDIOCY of relying on the weather to provide our electricity - because us plebs out here in the real world are not capable of rational thought...

Mar 13, 2014 at 12:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterSherlock1

Oops - its gone down to 551MW/1.3% of demand...

Mar 13, 2014 at 12:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterSherlock1

(Sigh) - 481MW/1.1%....

Don't worry - I'm not going to keep this up all afternoon...

Mar 13, 2014 at 12:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterSherlock1

Acoustic cabinets for large compressors are pretty efficient these days.

Mar 13, 2014 at 12:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

It doesn't add up...says:

To compare: a 3MW windmill will produce perhaps 600kW on average, or 5.25Gwh p.a. for 20 years (probably less). That is about 3,100 boe per year, or 62,000 boe over its life.

That's a good comparison to convert the windmill output to boe (barrels of oil equivalent). Does that include the efficiency of burning fossil fuel to generate electricity or is it a straight energy comparison?

Mar 13, 2014 at 12:56 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

"We know that with the right design and location wind turbines have little or no impact on wildlife".

Mar 13, 2014 at 1:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

Charmingquark asks if the RSPB are linked to Big Wind. Indeed they are, receiving a £60 bounty for every member who signs up to Ecotricity's supply.

I terminated my membership due to this deal. The RSPB are obsessed with climate change, blaming it for unlikely ills such as erosion of the east coast (I believe mainly geological sinkage) and decline of kittiwake populations due to collapse in sandeel numbers (it couldn't be anything to do with commercial sandeel fishing, could it?)

Mar 13, 2014 at 1:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterIan Wilson

Decibel scale
•Near total silence - 0 dB
•A whisper - 15 dB
•Normal conversation - 60 dB
•A lawnmower - 90 dB
•A car horn - 110 dB
•A rock concert or a jet engine - 120 dB
•A gunshot or firecracker - 140 dB

Assuming that the Mesa Verde National Park is pretty quiet and the 34dB is "real", the 34 + 15db = 49db i.e. some 10 x less noisy than a normal conversation.

Mar 13, 2014 at 1:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Time was when I was rather fond of the RSPB, but now they have been hollowed out and reborn as a green scum organization, full of dullards who are primarily watermelon zealots who couldn't care a fig for song birds [or the environment for that matter] but last on their list would be human beings.

A walk in the countryside, is a joy when the Blackbirds are bursting with song - as they are now. In the city, I love the sound of Sparrows too but alas they're not so common now, the RSPB love of raptors does not help either the Blackbirds or Sparrows - not the whole problem - but part of it.

I have to have an ironic laugh, STOR relies on rank upon ranks of diesel generators to save us from outages - what does the RSPB think?

Another gutteral laugh when you think that, these tree hugging bunnies prefer bird mincers to fracking sites - how irrational is that....................I can only think - I've come across that type of equivocal dissonance before and in all sorts of fields of study and walks of life, political correctness and for the sake of raising the decibel level to ear splitting - I cannot go any further along that particular road.

Mar 13, 2014 at 2:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

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