The High Court has upheld an appeal to carry out test drilling operations for onshore shale gas in England – opening the way to full shale gas extraction in the UK.
The contested permit for the test drilling at Kirby Misperton, Yorkshire, was the first approval for shale gas fracking since a moratorium (in England) was lifted in 2012.
Substantial amounts of shale gas are estimated to be trapped in underground rocks and the British government wants to exploit it to help offset declining North Sea oil and gas output, create some 64,000 jobs and help economic growth.
The court ruled that a fracking permit awarded by North Yorkshire Council to developer Third Energy was still valid despite being challenged by environmental campaigners.
The minority SNP-led Scottish government in Edinburgh imposed a ‘temporary’ moratorium on onshore drilling for shale gas in Scotland.
After a series of expert scientific reports gave a qualified thumbs-up – for a second time – for a Scottish shale gas industry on health, safety, economic and environment grounds, the Scottish Energy Minister last month then re-issued these independent reports for a round of lay consultation with the public.
Third Energy, which is owned by former bankers from the Barclays Natural Resource Investments private equity business, had been expected to produce Britain’s first shale gas this year before its permit award was appealed.
Rasik Valand, Chief Executive of Third Energy, said: “The permission places a great obligation on Third Energy to prove that we can carry out the test fracs in the same safe, discreet and environmentally sensitive way that we have conducted our gas exploration and energy generation activities over the past two decades.
“The council set 40 conditions to the grant of planning permission which the company is well on its way to satisfying.
“It is worth remembering that we are nearly two years into a planning application process for a proposed operation that would take less than 12 weeks to complete.
“We are confident that we will prove to the local community that their elected representatives were right to grant this permission. We look forward to the results of the test fracs which will help establish whether gas can be produced from deeper and tighter rock formations at the Kirby Misperton site.”