This week North Yorkshire County Council voted 7-4 in favour of Third Energy’s application to extract shale gas by fracking at a site near Kirby Misperton in Ryedale, North Yorkshire. It’s been five years since the last fracking project was halted due to earth tremors and you get the impression that the Government is champing at the bit to approve projects ever since.
The decision was controversial with 4,300 objections to the application were received and just 36 representations in support of the application were received.
Ryedale District Councillor Di Keal, of Frack Free Ryedale, told BBC Radio York: “People are very down, people are very upset – there were tears yesterday. But I know people round here, they will stand up and they will fight. This battle does go on.
Friends Of The Earth campaigner Simon Bowens said the organisation would “consider all options available, and that includes judicial review”, but would not expand on what any legal challenge might focus on.
Following the decision Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom said in a statement: “This decision has been made by the local council. We’re very clear that fracking is a fantastic opportunity. It’s good for jobs, the economy and strengthens our energy security.
“We already have tough regulation in place to ensure that fracking is safe. We are now looking forward to the safe exploration of shale gas beginning and finding out just how much of this home grown energy supply is available to power our homes and businesses.”
The site is already home to a shale Gas drilling well and Gas been extracted there for some twenty years.
What is fracking?
Fracking, or “hydraulic fracturing”, is the extraction of shale gas from deep underground. A mixture of water, sand and chemicals is pumped into the earth at such high pressure that it fractures the rocks and releases the gas trapped inside.
Huge reserves in Northern England
The projects taps into the Bowland Shale which stretches across northern England and the British Geological Survey suggest there are an estimated 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas – more than the total North Sea gas reserves and extraction to date.
The site is already home to an established gas well, so if fracking was going to get approval, this would be a very likely candidate.
Rasik Valand, chief executive of Third Energy, said: “If our application is successful, we will see it as a huge responsibility to deliver on our promises, not a victory. Promises to you, the local people.”
He added that work would not start at the site for “months and months” and would initially be an “exploration phase”.
Asked if this was a precedent for the approval of further fracking applications, he said: “We don’t look upon it like that. We are a local company, we see ourselves as a local company. For us, this is about testing what’s in our local area.”
Gas, climate change and energy policy
The extraction of gas by fracking is probably what George Osborne actually means by the Northern Powerhouse. However despite the potential Goldrush inspired by the US experience, the economics of fracking are notoriously fragile –
Fracking has undoubtedly contributed to a reduction in the price of oil and low fuel prices in the states and worldwide.
On the plus side, Gas is the cleanest fossil fuel and when used for domestic cooking and heating is quite an efficient and clean way of using energy. Gas power stations are also relatively clean and efficient. Also it is an appealing prospect to not be so reliant on imported gas from Russia or further afield.
However all still emit Carbon Dioxide and that contributes to climate change. In other news, Germany, Portugal and Sweden are all experiencing record levels of renewable generation but we in the UK seem to be reigning back in on solar subsidy, allowing fracking and are quite willing to pay way over-the-odds for nuclear technology from French and Chinese state owned companies.