Moors scheme to drill for gas likely to be approved

The North York Moors has the country's largest continuous expanse of heather moorland.  Picture:  Mike Kipling/North York Moors National Park Authority
The North York Moors has the country's largest continuous expanse of heather moorland. Picture: Mike Kipling/North York Moors National Park Authority
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A PROPOSAL to drill for natural gas in a national park is expected to be approved despite fears it will lay the infrastructure for fracking to take place in the future.

Around 200 people have objected to the plans put forward by Third Energy and Moorland Energy for gas production and water re-injection at an existing borehole at Ebberston Moor, the drilling of a second borehole and a 13.9km underground pipeline from the site to Knapton Generating Station.

North York Moors National Park Authority planning officers have recommended the scheme for approval, subject to a long list of conditions, and the Authority’s planning committee will meet on Thursday to finally decide whether the proposal will go ahead.

A decision has been delayed for months as planners sought more detailed information about how the scheme would work.

Third Energy, which is progressing with separate plans to frack at nearby Kirby Misperton, currently feeds its gas powered station at Knapton from gas fields in the Vale of Pickering but those reserves are now becoming exhausted.

To secure an alternative gas supply and to enable the Knapton gas station to continue operating, Third Energy is now working with Moorland Energy to investigate the reserves within the Ebberston gas fields.

A report by the National Park’s planning officers states that there is a “lack of demonstrable environmental harm” if gas is sensitively piped to the existing gas generating station at Knapton, which has been operating since 1995 without any significant public safety concerns.

Allerston and Ebberston parish councils are concerned about the potential for drinking water to be contaminated, while the Environment Agency has also urged special care to avoid contaminants affecting an aquifer which feeds Scarborough’s drinking water boreholes.

But planners concluded that “it has been reasonably demonstrated that there are not significant risks from the project to water pollution or land stability”, adding that the scheme included no proposals to carry out fracking.

Their report states: “For the avoidance of doubt it does not permit drilling down to the Bowland-Hodder Shale horizons or hydraulic fracturing of any part of any gas reservoir resource.”