Third Energy planning 100s of wells in Ryedale, say campaigners

Anti-fracking campaigners say the Ryedale area of North Yorkshire could see up to 950 fracking wells.

John Dewar

Their comments follow evidence by the drilling company, Third Energy, to the House of Commons Environment Committee yesterday.

The company’s director of operations, John Dewar, was asked by the committee chair, Anne McIntosh, how many well heads the company would require in Ryedale to make the operation commercially-viable.

He said Third Energy already has nine sites in the area, including Ebberston Moor and the Vale of Pickering. It was “very hard, very speculative” to say what the total number of wells would be. But he said: “To allay people’s fears we’ve said that we do not foresee the need for more than 10 more sites”.

“And how many wells we would put on those sites, we have provided numbers between 10 and depending on the size of the site, it could be 10 to 20, if it was a bigger site it could be 20-50.”

Miss McIntosh later told the Yorkshire Post Ryedale faced fracking on an “industrial scale” operation. “There needs to be a lot more clarity about what that will involve”, she said.

Chris Redston, of Frack Free Ryedale, said: “Finally, after months of dodging questions on the company’s plans, Mr Dewar has now confirmed that the company is aiming to construct at least 19 well-heads, each housing up to 50 individual wells.

“This would mean up to 950 fracking wells across the area in the next few years, each of which would be drilled horizontally for up to 2 km. The infrastructure and HGV movements required to construct, drill, maintain and service this number of wells would be enormous, and would signal nothing less than the irreversible industrialisation of the countryside.”

Local resident Jo White, from Great Edstone, added, “If this kind of development is allowed to go ahead, it will have devastating consequences for the whole of the area, and in particular the tourism and farming industries. The application at Kirby Misperton is for just a short test-frac at just one well. Imagine what this area would be like to live in if this well-site grew to accommodate 50 wells in full production.”

‘Site choice is crucial’

Mr Dewar told the committee Third Energy was focussing on testing a well it drilled last year at Kirby Misperton. The company is to apply for planning permission to frack the well, near the Flamingo Land theme park.

Mr Dewar told the committee his company would think “very carefully” about where it put sites to avoid “causing any disruption to local residents”.

He said: “We have been there for 20 years. We’ve got lots of sites. We have drilled lots of wells. We’ve done frack jobs. We’ve even done a frack job in this same site where we’re planning to do another one.

“We’ve operated quietly, safely, causing minimum disruption to the local population, we’ve won their trust, built their trust and we have good relations with the local regulators. So it is not as if we’ve blown in with the wind and we’re now talking about fracking.”

Fracking ‘another tool in the box’

Mr Dewar said shale gas fracking was not much different from his company’s current operations. “This is an extension to our natural business. It’s another tool in our tool box.” “It involves the same equipment the same people, the same pressures the same procedures, as just fracking but 1,000-2,000ft deeper. The only difference I can see is the volume of fluid that we are talking about. Everything else is very similar.”

  • Francis Egan, ceo of Cuadrilla, also gave evidence to the committee. He told MPs nothing would get done if companies had regulators looking over their shoulders. Our report on Mr Egan’s evidence

[Updated on 24/3/15 to include comments by Frack Free Ryedale]

13 replies »

  1. What a sensible statement. Nobody has noticed the previous fracking, or drilling but now it is being presented as some kind of criminal act against the environment, and humanity, with flares everywhere, and pollution all over the place. How this mundane and common activity has been twisted by the likes of Greenpeace and FoE into a dodgy activity is immoral. We all use the gas after all, in heating, or chemical production, or pharmaceuticals where gas is a feedstock. If GP and their like want to talk about climate change then please promote a moratorium on driving, or central heating. When they are flying their protestors and executives around the world it is the height of hypocrisy. We need the gas to displace the 35% of coal from out electricity generation. Renewables are simply not going to cut it, and need gas to back them up when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.

    Thanks as always for your excellent reporting Ruth!

  2. Ruth, as I read it from what he says, it’s not just 50 wells, it’s (at least) 10 or even 19 (9 existing plus 10, at least, new) well sites each with min 10 or max 50 wells on each site – so anywhere between 100 and 950 wells. I think Anne Macintosh was ( understandably) bemused by the lack of clarity or deliberate obfuscation in the way he presented their intentions.

    Thank you so much for all the splendid work you are putting out, very helpful when it comes to getting the objection letters together.

    Sent from my iPad

  3. Hi Linda Thanks for commenting. I agree it was unclear – I’ll keep plugging away to see if I can get some clarity on this.

    • How about an open letter to Mr Dewar in the local N Yorks press, which has now published it as 50 wells, throwing his figures back at him, with copy to Anne McIntosh as chair of the Committee?

      Some other questions arising from his dubious evidence
      -where have Third Energy fracked before in N Yorks? Have they drilled horizontal arms to previous wells? Where are their previous planning applications? What is the difference between what they have done before in N Yorks and what they are applying for now in Kirby Misperton?
      – Rather worried that in their Residents Leaflet for the Kirby Misperton fracking proposal, they quote Kirby Misperton theyquote ,4000 cu m of fracking fluid without specifying whether this is for one fracturing operation or more, and wonder how this holds up with the new Infrastructure Act definition of fracking as 800 cu m per frack, 10000cu m per total operation in one well?
      – His vague but damaging claim that the local objectors were largely bused in from Lancashire? How can that be accepted/dismissed as evidence? Apparently, Frack Free Lancs joined FrackFree Ryedale for one out of 4 local consultation events, and were outside thevenue, as entrance by ticket?

      At the moment I can’t find the Hansard text for the evidence session on the Parliament UK site, and can’t acces the tv recording on my iPad, so can reexamine exactly how it went.

      Sorry to overwhelm – I could take this on if I were sure of my facts and knew it was the best thing to do!

  4. Hi Ruth and Linda,

    Thanks for bringing this up – as you say, Mr Dewar’s projections were not very clear during the EFRA Committee hearing. We have been through the video again to clarify what he actually said when asked by Ms McIntosh to estimate how many well-heads (platforms from which multiple wells can be drilled) would be required to make fracking operations in Ryedale commercially viable.

    He said: “Bearing in mind we have nine existing sites in and around the area, some in Ebberston Moor and the Vale of Pickering, we do not foresee the need for more than ten more sites. And how many wells we would put on those sites – depending on the size of the site, it could be 10 to 20, and if it was a bigger site, it could be 20 to 50.”

    Mr Dewar confirmed that Third Energy is aiming to construct at least 19 well-heads, each housing up to 50 individual wells. This would mean up to 950 fracking wells across the area in the next few years, each of which would be drilled horizontally for up to 2 km. This would mean nothing less than the complete industrialisation of the Ryedale countryside, which contains a National Park and an AONB, and which could have serious effects on the local (agriculture and tourism-based) economy.

    He also stated – erroneously, in my opinion – that Third Energy have the support of the local community. I hope he will see evidence to the contrary when they submit their planning application for a test frack at Kirby Misperton to North Yorkshire County Council in the coming weeks. Certainly we expect a good “show of hands” at the forthcoming planning meeting by North York Moors National Park Authority to decide whether or not to green-light their re-injection well at Ebberston Moor.

    Best wishes,
    Adela Pickles-Redston
    Frack Free Ryedale

  5. Hi Adela Thanks very much for commenting. I’m still trying to get a definitive answer to this. I have calls into Third Energy so we’ll see what comes out of that. I’ll certainly let you know, whatever the response. Thanks again, Ruth

  6. Hi Linda and Adela
    Here’s an update received this afternoon from Third Energy’s spokesperson: “50 is the maximum number of wells the company plans to drill within the Ryedale area. It plans to develop up to 10 sites. It already has nine other sites in the area. John Dewar did not mean up to 50 wells per site and the company is not going to be drilling nearly 1,000 wells in the area”.
    Best wishes, Ruth

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