Third Energy first to frack since 2011
Third Energy yesterday obtained planning approval to hydraulically fracture, test the flow and, if testing proves successful, to produce gas from its existing KM8 well in North Yorkshire.
Hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ for shale gas hasn’t taken place in the UK since two minor earth tremors were linked to fracking operations in Lancashire in 2011.
According to Third Energy’s director of sub-surface, Andy Mortimer, the geology that underlies the KM8 well is different and not prone to seismicity, meaning that the risks of tremors there are even lower.
At the OESG supply chain conference in April, John Dewar, Third Energy’s director of operations, explained that the rock it is targeting is a shale and limestone ‘hybrid’ where the two different types of rock are intermingled. This, too, makes a difference to the Kirby Misperton proposals because it means the rock is likely to be more permeable and therefore require lower pumping pressures and a smaller volume of fluid in fracture stimulation. This is reflected in the planning application that shows five small frack stages at different heights in the vertical-only KM8 well.
In this respect, the KM8 well appears much more analogous to a conventional well, of which there are already several in the producing gas fields of North Yorkshire that have safely co-existed with tourism and agriculture for decades.
It’s a point overlooked by campaigners opposed to the development, who argue that because the application involves ‘fracking’ and ‘shale gas’ it is somehow novel and vastly different in scale.
Supporters took to social media yesterday to hail the decision, in which 7 councillors voted to approve the plans with just 4 against. Campaigners, meanwhile, threatened to challenge the approval by Judicial Review.
Speaking to the BBC, John Dewar struck a conciliatory tone. He said: “I don’t think we should be gloating or preparing for war. For me this is a time when we should be handing out an olive branch and we should be saying to the people ‘please work with us.’ We recognise you have concerns. I don’t want them to worry at night. I don’t want them to lose money on selling houses. Work with us.”
Third Energy now hopes to complete the work before the end of 2016.