Firm removes equipment from fracking site as Government review continues

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A company planning a controversial fracking operation in North Yorkshire has confirmed it is removing some equipment from the site as it waits for formal Government approval.

The announcement by Third Energy was welcomed by protesters who have demonstrated continually outside the compound near the village of Kirby Misperton since last autumn.

Last year, Third Energy said it would undertake test fracks at the KM8 well before the end of 2017 but the process was held up as it waited for the final go-ahead from the Government.

Earlier this month, business secretary Greg Clark signalled a further delay as he ordered an assessment of the "financial resilience" of Third Energy before deciding whether to give it the green light.

Now the company said it has decided to let contractors remove some of the equipment it has gathered at the site so it can be used elsewhere.

In a statement, the firm said the Government review meant that "there will be a further period before we can expect final consent from the Government to proceed with our operations".

It said it had agree with contractors that some equipment could be removed, including the well control unit and the workover rig.

"This will allow our contractors to deploy their equipment to other projects during the financial review," the statement said.

"We will maintain the majority of the operational equipment onsite and continue all of the monitoring requirements set by the regulators."

The statement said: "We appreciate that this situation creates further uncertainty for residents and we thank them for their patience.

"Given that there will be no hydraulic fracturing operations at the site until final consent is received, we hope that the protesters will also give residents a break from their campaign of disruption and this will enable everyone to resume their normal daily lives and also reduce pressure on North Yorkshire Police."

North Yorkshire fracking
Third Energy's KM8 well, near Kirby Misperton, before fracking equipment was brought on to the site at the end of 2017 (Danny Lawson/PA)

In response, campaigners at the Kirby Misperton Protection Camp said in a statement: "Campaigners have vowed to peacefully protest at KM8 until Third Energy go bust, and this announcement suggests we haven't got too long to wait.

"The fact that contractors are recalling their equipment while the government investigates Third Energy's finances doesn't bode well for the health of the company. We would suggest it's time for Third Energy to pack up and leave completely."

Earlier this month, Mr Clark said the 13 technical requirements before final consent for fracking can be given had been met.

But he order a financial resilience review "so that stakeholders can have confidence in the company's ability to meet its commitments".

Third Energy secured permission from North Yorkshire County Council in 2016 to use KM8 - drilled for conventional gas extraction in 2013 - to run test fracks almost two miles underground.

Third Energy's plans are part of efforts by several companies to get the shale gas industry in the UK off the ground, amid hopes it will boost the economy, jobs and energy security.

But opponents fear it can cause earthquakes, pollute water and is not compatible with targets to cut use of fossil fuels.