An application to carry out fracking in England for the first time since a ban was lifted in 2012 has been approved.
North Yorkshire County Council granted an application by Third Energy to extract shale gas at a site near Kirby Misperton in Ryedale.
Rasik Valand, Chief Executive of Third Energy – which owns and operates the site – said: “This approval is not a victory, but is a huge responsibility.
“We will have to deliver on our commitment, made to the committee and to the people of Ryedale, to undertake this operation safely and without impacting on the local environment.
“However, don’t expect to see any activities on site in the near future. We have conditions from both the planning authority and the Environment Agency to discharge. There are other consents and notifications required prior to receiving final consent from the British govt.
“Then there is the normal commercial and project management work, such as the letting of contracts and ordering of long lead items.
“The purpose of this application is to establish if the gas seen in some samples in this hybrid sandstone shale formation can be made to flow, at what process conditions and for how long. If this flows then we will need to assess how it performs for some months before making any conclusions.
“So now we move on to the next stage of obtaining required approvals.”
Andrea Leadsom, the junior British energy minister – and a staunch supporter of British Independence from the EU-Bloc – said: “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 minority-Scottish Government under SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has been ducking and diving on shale energy for more than 18 months since she over-ruled the then Scottish Energy Minister to declare a ‘temporary moratorium’ on shale energy exploration drilling in Scotland.
The British Geological Society has indicated that there are substantial shale reserves in in northern England and in the Weald in southern England, as well as across the Central Belt in Scotland.
Last year, the SNP Scot-Govt. imposed a ‘temporary’ moratorium on shale gas exploration pending the outcome of a further review of scientific evidence.
Last month, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon escalated her anti-shale position to ‘deeply sceptical’ in her party’s manifesto for the Holyrood elections.
Last week, she reshuffled former Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing out of that job by promoting him into the Cabinet as Rural Economy Minister in an attempt to smooth over internal SNP divisions over shale energy.
Already, the new Scottish Energy Minister – Paul Wheelhouse – is keeping a very low profile on public engagements which may generate adverse media publicity for Sturgeon’s ‘deeply sceptical’ shale energy policy.
Some of Sturgeon’s own MPs in the Westminster parliament – whose constituency seats in the Central Belt include areas licensed by the UK Dept of Energy (DECC) for shale gas exploration – are known to be in favour of fracking notwithstanding her ‘deep scepticism’
INEOS – which owns and operates the huge Grangemouth petro-chem refinery which is essential to the well-being of Scotland’s economy – also holds shale gas exploration licences in Scotland and England.
But the company – which is now shipping tanker-loads of US shale gas to Grangemouth because N. Sea supplies are dwindling – is meanwhile expected to focus its exploration activity south of the border.
Tory MSP Alex Johnstone – whose party supports shale gas exploration – told a weekly Scottish newspaper: “It was bad enough that Fergus Ewing and Nicola Sturgeon were at logger heads on this <shale energy>. Now we have a new problem in the form of Ewing’s successor having all kinds of local conflicts <of energy> over shale.
“The Scottish Government needs to stop messing about on fracking and make sure that Scotland capitalises on this opportunity”.