Guest post: Third Energy discusses new North Yorks fracking well with police but not the community – DRILL OR DROP?

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fracking KM Eddie Thornton

Third Energy’s Kirby Misperton fracking site in North Yorkshire. Photo: Eddie Thornton

By Russell Scott and Melissa Jones of Spinwatch.

Fracking firm Third Energy met  North Yorkshire Police in February 2018 and discussed plans for a second shale gas well at its controversial KMA site in Kirby Misperton, new documents reveal. 

A meeting log, released by the North Yorkshire Police (NYP) in response to a series of freedom of information requests, confirms that Third Energy intends to drill a new well in Kirby Misperton in 2019.

The well has been given the name ‘KM9’ and could be the first full fracked well in North Yorkshire if granted approval. Third Energy had not previously made public or shared these plans with its Kirby Misperton Community Liaison Group, with whom it is supposed to be ‘transparent and open’.

The NYP ‘Operation Kingfisher’ meeting log noted:

“TE are intending on drilling a new well on the KMA pad that will be called KM9, and this will be a horizontal drill and a full frack to tap into the shale gas reserves.”

NYP also noted at the meeting, which was held at Third Energy’s Knapton Generating Station, that:

“The KM8 frack is a test frack to see if the gas reserves down there are commercially viable. TE state that the drilling of KM9 won’t be until 2019 due to the delays at KM8.”

Spinwatch previously reported on the close relationship that has developed between North Yorkshire Police and Third Energy. This has seen NYP counter-terrorism officers advising on the firm’s KM8 fracking site and both parties sharing information about anti-fracking campaign groups. Policing of the site since 2016 has cost  over £669,000. It has also been criticised for its disproportionate heavy-handedness against protestors.

171110 KM KMPG

Green Party co-leader, Jonathan Bartley, removed from the KM8 site gate, November 2017. Photo: Kirby Misperton Protection Camp

News that the police and the fracking firm continue to discuss public interest matters behind closed doors is likely to worsen already strained community relations in North Yorkshire.

In recent months, Third Energy had to halt its planned test frack at Kirby Misperton after a delay to gain consent from the Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy.

The Secretary of State, Greg Clark, said Third Energy must prove ‘financial resilience’ before fracking can start at KM8 – the same site of the proposed new KM9 well.

The latest set of accounts for 2016, published three months late by Third Energy, revealed the fracking firm had lost £3.4 million that year. It owed £48.1m to Third Energy’s holding company in the Cayman Islands, up from £44.4m in 2015 and £40.6m in 2014.

This raises questions over Third Energy’s ability to finance both the KM8 test frack and the new horizontally drilled ‘KM9’ well planned for 2019.

Spinwatch approached North Yorkshire Police early last week for comment about the KM9 disclosure. It finally responded in an email late Friday afternoon:

“We can confirm that we wish to add nothing further to our email dated 17 April 2018 in which we provided you with the initial disclosure.”

Yet just hours before Spinwatch received NYP’s statement, Rosemary Drummond from Third Energy sent an email ‘update’ to the Community Liaison Group (CLG) for the Kirby Misperton site. The group includes local councillors and resident representatives from Kirby Misperton, surrounding villages and parish councils. Its purpose is ‘to build an open and constructive relationship between the local community and Third Energy’.

Ms Drummond’s email to the CLG, which first briefed members on two other issues, stated:

“Finally, some non-news may appear on social media in the next week or so as the result of a Freedom of Information request to North Yorkshire Police (NYP). We have always said that, after a successful frac of KM8, we would be looking to drill and frac a horizontal well as part of the appraisal of the shale gas resource.

“As we already have permission to drill and test a second well on the KMA well site extension, it has always been a strong possibility that “KM9” might be that horizontal well. Although, at this stage, we have no firm plans, we did brief NYP that this could be a future possibility. So, despite how the FOI requester may choose to position this information, this is not a new proposal for a well but an option for making use of an existing consent. As you will recall, we are seeking to extend consent for all our well sites in the Vale of Pickering until 2035 and application NY/2018/0107/73A covers the upper part of the KMA well site.”

The ‘terms of reference’ for the community liaison group include a commitment to facilitate a “two-way channel between the local community and project team’ and for Third Energy to be ‘transparent and open”.

However, minutes from meetings in March 2018 and April 2018 make no reference to the new KM9 well despite Third Energy being asked questions about ongoing and future work at the Kirby Misperton site. A source told us some CLG members took issue with the fracking firm’s attempts to downplay the proposed KM9 well as ‘not new’ and ‘non-news’, and also dispute its claim about plans for a horizontal well.

This latest revelation of more closed briefings between the NYP force and Third Energy will further strain relations with local residents and the CLG, who have both also expressed their concerns over policing at the fracking site.

The CLG’s minutes from November 2017  reveal that NYP declined the group’s request for a face-to-face briefing.

This Guest Post is an edited version of a post which first appeared on Spinwatch

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