'˜We can show fracking is safe in Yorkshire'

PLANS to frack in North Yorkshire are an opportunity for the oil and gas industry to show it can be done safely and benefit local communities, according to the new chairman of Third Energy.

Third Energy chairman Keith Cochrane
Third Energy chairman Keith Cochrane

Keith Cochrane said all those involved in developing the UK shale industry had an “obligation” to address the concerns raised about the potential impact on health and the environment.

Third Energy last year secured planning permission to frack near Kirby Misperton, in Ryedale, despite significant local opposition.

Mr Cochrane told The Yorkshire Post: “Clearly there are concerns out there and very much Third Energy is committed to engaging with those that have those concerns, demonstrating that the process can be undertaken safely.

“Let’s not forget fracking technology has been used across the oil and gas industry for many many years and we are commited to operating to the highest possible standards, in a safe manner.

“The company. all those operators that are involved in the process of developing it, we all have an obligation to articulate and demonstrate to those with concerns about the potential impact that this can be done safely and in a responsible manner.

“Alongside that there are potentially significant benefits not just for local communities but the UK more broadly with the role of gas in the broader energy mix, the implications of depending on imported gas in the longer term and the potential to develop a domestic resource in a post-Brexit world.”

Mr Cochrane is a former chief executive of engineering firm Weir Group which is a major supplier of equipment to the US fracking industry.

Fracking in the US has been credited with cutting energy prices but also prompted protests and concerns from environmentalists and health campaigners.

Mr Cochrane said: “I saw at first hand both the development of the industry and the consquences of that development both in terms of the activity that arose from it, the jobs and the impact on US natural gas prices being very significant indeed.

“So the opportunity to get in at the early stages of the development of the UK industry is going to be a very exciting one.”

Mr Cochrane insisted the approach to fracking would be very different in the UK compared to the US.

He said: “I think we are already seeing some of the lessons learned in terms of the very robust regulatory framework that’s been established here in the UK that ensures that the operation of fracking will be done to the highest possible standards and that’s something Third Energy is very much committed to.

“Where we will be able to benefit and leverage from the US exeprience is in some of the efficiency improvements which have really brought down the cost of the process significantly over the last 10 years.

“There has clearly has been a substantial and significant supply chain required to develop also and again we will, from a UK perspective, be able to capitalise on that.”

Oil and gas exploration licences have been awarded to several firms for areas of Yorkshire but they will have to secure planning permission to carry out work.

FRACKING involves sand, water and chemicals being pumped at high pressure into shale rock formations deep underground to release trapped gas.

Critics argue the process poses risks to the environment and health, wastes water and causes disruption.

Despite Government support, public opposition has made it hard to develop UK shale gas so the planning approval at Kirby Misperton plan represented a major breakthrough for the industry.

Third Energy still has to secure final approval from other regulators before work begins.