Fracking: How search for shale gas will spread across region

For many months now, the unassuming North Yorkshire village of Kirby Misperton has been at the front line of a battle which could determine the future of the UK's energy needs for decades to come.

In May 2016, Third Energy was granted permission by North Yorkshire County Council to carry out the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’, at the site between Malton and Pickering, a decision that sparked outrage among environmentalists.

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Since then, the area around the KM8 wellsite has been the scene of frequent tense confrontations between the firm’s contractors and protesters, who have vowed to do everything they can to oppose the first act of fracking in the UK since 2011.

Date: 23rd January 2018. Picture James Hardisty. Fracking Feature at Kirby Misperton, near Pickering, North Yorkshire. Pictured Anti-fracking poster in the village of Kirby Misperton.

A decision is expected from Business Secretary Greg Clark about whether Third can start the process of directing a high-pressure water mixture at underground rocks to release the shale gas inside.

But in the coming months, attention may switch from Kirby Misperton to other Yorkshire sites, where rival energy firms are considering the start of work which could ultimately end up with their own hydraulic fracturing taking place.

Third Energy, which has a number of licence areas across North Yorkshire, is waiting for the results of its fracking at KM8 before it considers the potential of its other sites.

Date: 23rd January 2018. Picture James Hardisty. Fracking Feature at Kirby Misperton, near Pickering, North Yorkshire. Pictured Anti-fracking poster in the village of Kirby Misperton.

Once it gets consent from the Government, it hopes to collect enough data in the next few weeks to know whether the well is commercially viable.

Its rival Ineos has been granted rights to carry out exploration work in two sizeable patches of North Yorkshire and across the South Yorkshire/East Midlands border.

In the latter area, the process of applying to drill vertical “listening wells”, where core samples of rock can be extracted to check its suitability for fracking, have been far from straightforward in the face of strong local opposition.

After submitting a planning application to Derbyshire County Council in May, it lodged an appeal to the Government after claiming the authority had not dealt with the matter within the time limit. It has since submitted another application for the site.

The firm is planning two similar wells in the area covered by Rotherham council, at Harthill and Woodsetts. At Harthill its application, which is opposed by the authority, will be decided by a public inquiry in April after the company bypassed the local planning process.

The Yorkshire Post understands that Ineos is planning similar activity, as well as a three-dimensional seismic survey to provide a clear image of the underground rock structure, within its North Yorkshire patch in 2018.

The firm, which is reported to have been preparing applications to drill exploratory boreholes around the southern edge of the North York Moors National Park, has now said there are no pending applications to drill underneath the national park, and there will not be any for the foreseeable future.

Cuadrilla, which has already drilled a 1.6-mile vertical well at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire and hopes it will soon be fracking there, has a large licence area covering parts of North and East Yorkshire but says it has got no further than desk-top studies into possible drilling work.

By contrast, iGas has planning permission for exploratory wells near the village of Misson, a few miles from Doncaster, and another site further south in Nottinghamshire. The firm has licences elsewhere in Yorkshire, including an area of west of York, but says it has no current plans there and is concentrating on its existing sites.

Of the other companies awarded licences in Yorkshire in 2015, Warwick Energy said it was yet to decide whether to drill at its site west of Sheffield, and Hutton Energy said it had no current plans for work in the area south-east of Leeds.

Egdon Resources has a number of Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences in Yorkshire, but its managing director Mark Abbott said: “Our immediate focus in the region is offshore from the Yorkshire coast where Egdon is developing plans to appraise a 1966 conventional gas discovery – which the company has called the Resolution Prospect. Drilling here would likely be late in 2019.”

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