fracking site

Third Energy hoping to test UK’s first fracking procedure in the coming weeks

Image credit: pa

The first test fracking procedure in the UK is set to take place in the coming weeks, according to operator Third Energy.

The procedure has attracted considerable controversy since it was given the green light in May 2016. 

Environmentalists objected on a number of grounds, including concerns over the impact on local water supply and air quality, fears that the drilling could trigger earthquakes, and the effect of burning fossil fuels on climate change.

Third Energy, a London-based company, has stated that it hopes to complete five test fracks before the end of the year, producing gas for its nearby power station.

The firm’s KM8 well site, just outside the village of Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire, has been besieged by protesters since Third Energy began moving lorries of equipment into the compound last month. Police 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.”

Public support for fracking has been falling in recent years, a study conducted a year ago by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, showed that just 17 per cent of people backed the process. 

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, Linn said the final regulatory sign-off was “imminent”.

“We’re beginning to prepare for the work-over phase of the well and that should commence shortly,” he said.

“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.

“There’s not been an onshore hydocarbon frack done in the UK, this is the first time,” he said. "The conversation about fracking in this country will be informed by an actual frack. For me that will change everything."

“So there will be no speculation. We will be able to demonstrate and show people the figures, and we will see whether, technically, it works or doesn’t work and how the work was undertaken safely.”

Linn said the protests led to delays on some days but his team had caught up and was broadly on track.

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