The final decision on Third Energy’s plans to frack at Kirby Misperton has been delayed because of a loophole in the Infrastructure Act, the government said this evening.
A written ministerial statement was issued this afternoon to close the loophole. But a decision on the Kirby Misperton fracking operation was not now expected imminently.
A spokesperson for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said the Third Energy application would now be examined by senior officials, including the Department’s chief scientific advisor.
Third Energy said on 8 November 2017 it was ready to frack (DrillOrDrop report). Tonight BEIS was unable to say when the decision would be made.
According to the department, the loophole came to light in October 2017 when Third Energy submitted its application for final fracking approval.
Since then, officials had been working to close the loophole and it had not been able to look at the Third Energy application, the spokesperson said.
Under the Infrastructure Act, the Secretary of State has to give final consent for fracking operations. But this applies only to wells drilled since April 2016, the spokesperson said.
The KM8 well that Third Energy wants to frack was drilled in 2013 and was not covered by the wording of the act. Technically, the company did not need the Secretary of State’s permission to frack.
The spokesperson said the loophole was closed this afternoon in a direction to parliament referred to in a written ministerial statement from the energy minister, Richard Harrington (left).
The direction is expected to be published in parliament tomorrow.
In the statement, Mr Harrington said:
“My Rt. Hon. Friend Greg Clark (Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) has today laid before Parliament a Direction ensuring that the Oil and Gas Authority consults the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on onshore hydraulic fracturing operations.
“Under Section 4A of the Petroleum Act 1998 (inserted by Section 50 of the Infrastructure Act 2015), operators who wish to conduct associated hydraulic fracturing must apply for a Hydraulic Fracturing Consent from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
“Hydraulic Fracturing Consent was introduced in the Infrastructure Act 2015 as an additional step to the existing regulatory and permitting regime.
“However, it does not apply to wells drilled before the 2015 Act came to force and these are not captured by the requirement to seek a Hydraulic Fracturing Consent.
“Today’s Direction closes this loophole and ensures that the same approach for consent is taken for all relevant hydraulic fracturing operations, including where the associated well was drilled prior to the 2015 Act coming into force.
“For these operations, operators will be expected to meet the same set of standards as required to obtain Hydraulic Fracturing Consent, laid out in the Infrastructure Act 2015.
“The Government has been clear that shale development must be safe and environmentally sound.
“The UK has a robust regulatory system which provides a comprehensive regime for exploratory activities and this direction will ensure that all relevant hydraulic fracturing operations are subject to this final step of scrutiny.”
Reaction to the announcement (DrillOrDrop report)
Government direction to the OGA (with link to government document published 30/11/17)
(30/11 Article updated to include links to reaction and Government direction)