The council’s planning committee voted seven for, four against for approval of the application, allowing the firm to test out the process at the well over an eight-week period, fracturing it in five different places to gauge its productivity.
This is the first time an application for fracking in the UK has been given council approval since a ban was lifted in 2012.
— North Yorkshire CC (@northyorkscc) May 23, 2016
“The committee has sat for two days and listened to over 100 speakers before deliberating the planning officer’s report and recommendation to accept Third Energy’s application,” the council said in a statement.
“This has been a long and taxing process which the committee has undertaken with very careful consideration of all the issues raised.”
Third Energy chief executive Rasik Valand said: “This approval, is not as 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 Secretary of State. 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.”
Ken Cronin, chief executive of industry representative body UK Onshore Oil and Gas said: “UKOOG welcomes the decision that has been taken today by North Yorkshire county council, which helps to dispel many of the misleading claims that have been made about this application, as well as the process of hydraulic fracturing more generally.
“We look forward to Third Energy being able to conduct a test to see how much gas is under this area of North Yorkshire to power and heat homes and businesses.”
Energy minister Andrea Leadsom 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 beleaguered fracking industry has faced significant challenges in getting projects off the ground, with many having been blocked by councils.
However, the Tory government is a staunch supporter of shale gas exploration as proven by Prime Minister David Cameron’s now-famous line “we’re going all out for shale gas”. Last year it confirmed new measures to fast-track applications.
The government has assured it will keep the regulatory regime for shale gas “under review” for when the industry develops, as set out on the shale gas task force’s 2015 report.
As well as Third Energy’s application to frack its existing KM8 well, two other shale exploration firms have fracking applications under review in the UK.
Cuadrilla has two applications under appeal. Civil servants have warned that the appeal process could take “at least 16 months”, and last November the government announced that the appeals would be determined by communities secretary Greg Clark.
IGas has applied for planning permission to monitor groundwater and drill exploratory shale gas wells across four locations near Springs Road in Nottinghamshire. Also under review is a separate scoping request for a site at Tinker Lane near Blyth in Nottinghamshire.