The first act of fracking to be carried out in Yorkshire moved a step closer today after the Environment Agency approved plans for an energy company to use the controversial technique.
The government agency revealed that it had given the green light to Third Energy’s hydraulic fracture plan for its well site at Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire after what it described as a “thorough assessment”.
Separately, a specialist piece of equipment known as a ‘workover rig’ was yesterday delivered to the site between Norton and Pickering, where campaigners have been holding a long-running ‘protection camp’ in a bid to stop fracking from taking place.
In order for Third Energy to start fracking work at the site, it would need permission from the Oil and Gas Authority and the Secretary of State.
The Environment Agency said the plan the firm submitted last month showed it has the right procedures in place to control and monitor the fracturing process.
A spokesman said: “We are satisfied with Third Energy’s arrangements for monitoring during and after hydraulic fracturing.
We are very pleased to have achieved another significant regulatory milestone towards hydraulic fracturing of our KM8 well.Third Energy chief executive Rasik Valand
“The Environment Agency is committed to ensuring that shale gas operations meet the highest environmental standards and can only go ahead if they are safe for people and the environment.
“Our environmental permits set out the legal conditions needed to protect groundwater, surface water and air quality and to ensure the safe storage, management and disposal of waste.
“Our staff will continue to carry out regular on-site checks and audits to ensure that the company is meeting the high standards we require.”
Fracking is designed to recover gas and oil from shale rock using high-pressure water mixture and the upcoming tests will see the company attempt the process at five different depths to see whether it is commercially viable.
While there are no other current applications, the company has six existing well sites in Kirby Misperton, Malton and Pickering where it has said it may consider “further appraisal activity”.
For its supporters, including the Government, fracking represents a huge opportunity to reduce the UK’s reliance on overseas imports, which has grown in recent years as a result of the decline in North Sea oil and gas production.
But detractors, including dozens of activists who have been besieging the site for the past few weeks, highlight environmental and safety concerns.
Those fighting against fracking have been buoyed by Scotland’s recent decision to extend its moratorium on the process into a permanent ban.
Third Energy chief executive Rasik Valand said: “We are very pleased to have achieved another significant regulatory milestone towards hydraulic fracturing of our KM8 well following a thorough review of all the technical issues and protections.
“We will now be in a position to prepare and submit a formal application to the Secretary of State for Hydraulic Fracturing Consent (HFC).
“The Hydraulic Fracture Plan is a technical document that sets out how the company will meet a range of specific regulatory protections around hydraulic fracturing.
“These measures are in addition to the established regulatory environment which covers all onshore oil and gas development.”