From Zen monks to imprisoned contractors - the long fight over fracking in North YorkshireToday is the first day that lorries carrying specialist fracking equipment were allowed to enter the site in the village of Kirby Misperton in Ryedale.
Company Third Energy intends to conduct around eight weeks of testing whether the controversial process of extracting gas from shale is commercially viable.
Dozens of protesters and around 50 police officers were at the site this morning, with campaigners sitting in front of the gates to prevent entry.
North Yorkshire Police said "several" protesters were moved away from the front of the site and two men, aged 33 and 69, have been arrested. Protests are expected to continue throughout the day.
Superintendent Alisdair Dey, of North Yorkshire Police, said: “We know that there are very different views about hydraulic fracturing, but as the local police, our responsibility is to carry out our duties impartially.
“We have a duty to make sure that people who want to assemble and protest do so safely, balanced against a duty to ensure that businesses can go about their lawful commercial activity.
“Police liaison officers have been engaging with the protest community, and will continue to do so, explaining what is acceptable in terms of safety and reasonableness.”
The tests will see the company attempt the fracking process at five different depths using an existing two-mile deep well over an eight-week period to see whether the process is commercially viable. While there are no other current application, the company has six existing well sites in Kirby Misperton, Malton and Pickering where it has said it may consider “further appraisal activity”.
Activists have set up a 'Protection Camp' on the outskirts of the village as part of the campaign against the plans.
Fracking is designed to recover gas and oil from shale rock using high-pressure water mixture. The Government believes, despite environmentalists’ concerns about chemicals escaping and contaminating groundwater, “shale gas has the potential to provide the UK with greater energy security, growth and jobs”.
Third Energy has promised local residents its work in Kirby Misperton will be conducted safely.
A spokesman for the company said earlier this month: “As a company that has been operating gas exploration and production in the Vale of Pickering for over 20 years’ we are very experienced in meeting the wide ranging requirements of all our regulators.
The United Kingdom has one of the most rigorous regulatory regimes for the onshore oil and gas industry in the world. We can reassure the residents of Kirby Misperton and Ryedale that, operating within this framework, that our upcoming operations will be conducted safely and with minimal impact on the either people or the environment as they have been for over 20 years.”