The first frack for shale gas in the UK is just weeks away, according to the company preparing to undertake the controversial technique in North Yorkshire.
Third Energy says it hopes to complete five test fracks before the end of the year, producing gas for its nearby power station.
The company’s KM8 well site, just outside the village of Kirby Misperton, has been besieged by protesters since Third Energy began moving lorries of equipment into the compound last month.
Anti-fracking campaigners have been accompanied by large numbers of police, who have made a number of arrests, including women who locked themselves to a concrete-filled tube, and another who protested on top of a lorry.
North Yorkshire Police said: “A total of 26 people were arrested at the site in September 2017.
“Two were released with no further action, two accepted cautions and the other 22 have been charged to court for offences including obstructing the highway, assaulting a police officer and obstructing a police officer.”
Third Energy’s technical director Alan Linn said his message to the protesters was: “Allow us to do this and we will be able to demonstrate to you that you don’t have anything to worry about.”
Speaking at the site, Mr Linn said the final regulatory sign-off was “imminent”.
He said: “We’re beginning to prepare for the work-over phase of the well and that should commence shortly. It will probably take us about two weeks. Once we’ve completed that successfully then we would begin to move into the frack.
“We can’t do that until we’ve got our final regulatory approvals in place and we hope those will happen imminently. We expect to be finished and wrapped up with the actual fracking before the end of the year.
“If we’re successful, we should hopefully, by that stage, be producing some gas into the Knapton generating station and producing some electricity.”
He said he thought the Kirby Misperton fracks would change the tone of the conversation about the technique in the UK.
Mr Linn said the protests led to delays on some days but his team had caught up and was broadly on track. Outside the gates on Thursday, protesters continued their demonstration on the quiet country road just south of the village.
Campaigner Eddie Thornton, from Pickering, said: “We’re determined as a community to stop this well and the 10,000 wells that will follow. We’re doing our utmost to disrupt them economically.”
The Kirby Misperton fracking would the first in the UK as the other project, at Preston New Road, involves drilling a new well.