Residents and businesses in the Ryedale area of North Yorkshire are being asked what they think about producing geothermal energy from old gas wells, including one once earmarked for fracking.
The pioneering scheme could be the first time in the UK where redundant gas wells are repurposed for renewable heat.
Feasibility studies are now underway on 12 wells owned in the region by Third Energy, the company that six years ago yesterday got the go-ahead to frack at Kirby Misperton.
The public consultation, to begin next month, is the latest development in a dramatic change in direction for Third Energy, now a renewables company under new ownership.
DrillOrDrop has followed the company’s fortunes since May 2015, when it applied for planning permission for the Kirby Misperton frack.
In autumn 2017, it looked as if that operation would be the first high volume hydraulic fracture in England for more than six years.
But it failed to get government consent for company financial reasons and never went ahead.
Third Energy, then controlled by Barclays, was sold in July 2019 to an affiliate of a Texas-based oil and gas company. Two-and-a-half years later, the company was taken over by the green energy firm, the Wolfland Group.
In March 2022, the geothermal feasibility study got a £50,000 grant from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
Third Energy, which match-funded the study, said early signs are that at least some of the wells could supply geothermal energy. These included those near Pickering, at Kirby Misperton and the Ebberston Moor wells in Dalby and Wykeham Forests.
If successful, heat could be supplied to homes and leisure, commercial or agricultural businesses, it said.
The wells are thousands of feet deep, and the KM8 well, previously considered for fracking, contains water up to 80-90°C.
The company said it should know by the end of the year whether geothermal heat from the wells is technically feasible.
A business case would then be considered to confirm whether the projects were financially viable, the company said.
If commercial, new consents would also be needed. Planning permissions would be required for the change of operation of the wells and sites, and the associated processes and infrastructure. If approved, the existing planning permissions for gas production would be surrendered.
Changes to the environmental permit would also be needed for the new use of the wells. Third Energy said.
The company is in talks with the industry regulator, the North Sea Transition Authority. But Third Energy said, “because this is new ground, the approval pathway with NSTA is not yet obvious”.
The BEIS grant for the study was secured by Ryedale District Council. Its member champion for climate change, Cllr Mike Potter, said:
“The potential of this project is very exciting. The idea of using geothermal energy ties in with our own ambitions set out in our Climate Change Action Plan.”
Third Energy’s managing director, Russell Hoare, said:
“This is potentially a sustainable energy source right under our feet. Given the urgent need to decarbonise the energy system and eliminate fuel poverty, we are pleased to be working with Ryedale District Council and the Government to address these two issues.”
The impact of geothermal energy on Ryedale’s carbon footprint is unclear until the result of the feasibility study. Third Energy said:
“The studies will provide the indication on the best way for the heat from the wells to be utilised and, from this, the potential carbon reduction for Ryedale can be estimated.”
The council said it is keen to hear local views on the proposals. There will be information events in June and July (see early details below). People can also complete a survey.
- Online presentation and discussion on the evening of Tuesday 7 June. Register at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Information stall at Pickering Market on Monday 13 June
- Public information events on Wednesday 6 July in Pickering (afternoon) and Malton (evening)