Battlelines drawn as energy firm applies to carry out fracking

Third Energy supplied picture of Well KM8 at Kirby Misperton.
Third Energy supplied picture of Well KM8 at Kirby Misperton.
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ANTI-fracking campaigners say they will vigorously oppose plans for a series of tests to explore for gas using the controversial fracking method which could lead to more wells being sunk and “creeping industrialisation of the countryside.”

It came after Third Energy submitted an application to North Yorkshire County Council for planning permission to carry out five “fracks” at a well close to the village of Kirby Misperton.

The company will be investigating both shale and conventional formations, between 7,000 and 10,000 feet deep, over around eight weeks.

The process involves pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the well at increasing pressure until the rock begins to crack.

The gas produced will be piped to their existing electricity generating station at Knapton, and fluid containing naturally occurring radioactivity, which has been trapped underground, will be tankered away to an undisclosed Environment Agency-approved disposal site in Yorkshire.

Opponents warn fracking can pollute water supplies and blight the countryside. Artist Sue Gough, from Little Barugh, a member of Frack Free Ryedale, said she feared for the area’s “pristine” rivers.

She said: “Anyone who has taken the time to research fracking even those who were for or unsure are agreed it is a stupid thing to do. I would fight this if it was 10 miles away and not just because it is down the road.”

Around 700 people marched in April in Malton in the biggest anti-fracking rally of its kind ever held in Yorkshire.

Chris Redston, of Frack Free Ryedale, said: “It’s important for people to realise that if this application for a test-frack is approved, it will open the door to widespread commercial fracking all across Ryedale. Third Energy announced on March 10 that they are planning 19 well-sites with between 10 and 50 wells on each site, and all the HGV traffic, related infrastructure, pollution concerns and noise this would entail. This would lead to the creeping industrialisation of the countryside - and it all starts with just one well.”

However a spokesman for Third Energy, which is 97 per cent owned by a private equity arm of the bank, Barclays Natural Resource Investments, said quotes by their director John Dewar had been misinterpreted. He said: “John said potentially you could have up to 19 different sites, but the point is first off, we already have nine, and we will be operating from existing sites in as many as possible.”

Any new sites would be the size of two football pitches, he said, “very similar to the sites which already exist and which to be honest people don’t know are there.”

Fracking would take place around 6,000 ft below the level at which drinking water was extracted and geologists, he said, agreed there was “no chance contamination would migrate 6,000ft up.” Waste water would be kept in sealed tanks and wells would be triple-cased in concrete and steel.

“We would be happy to sit down with Frack Free Ryedale and go every single concern,” he added.

The Environment Agency will also have to issue permits. If tests prove positive Third Energy would have to go through a further application process before full production could go-ahead.

A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “This is now a matter for the local planning authority to determine. The Government continues to support the development of the shale industry in the UK in a safe and sustainable way.”