Centrica plans battery storage at HQ of former fracking company

The UK’s biggest energy supplier, Centrica, has announced plans to turn the site of a former gas-fired power station in North Yorkshire into a battery storage plant.

Demolition of the Third Energy Knapton Generating Station in 2021. Photo: Third Energy

In a multi-million pound deal, Centrica said it has acquired the site in the Vale of Pickering that housed the headquarters of the former fracking company, Third Energy, and Knapton Generating Station.

In 2017, Third Energy looked as if it would be the first company for six years to carry out a high volume hydraulic fracture in the UK. It planned to use fracked gas to generate electricity at Knapton. But the scheme failed to get government consent and the frack at Kirby Misperton never happened.

Since then, Third Energy and the Knapton site was sold to York Energy, an affiliate of a Texas-based oil and gas company, and then in 2021 to the renewables company, Wolfland.

Electricity generation ended at Knapton in 2019. The power station and gas processing equipment was cleared in 2021. But the grid connection remained.

DrillOrDrop reported a year ago that Third Energy were planning a solar farm near Knapton.

It also undertook a feasibility study to use local redundant gas wells to generate geothermal energy. In October 2022, a consultation in the area found more than 80% of people supported the idea.

Under this week’s deal, Third Energy will continue to own the 12 gas sites and the pipeline network in the Vale of Pickering.

Centrica said it planned to use the Knapton site to develop a 28MW battery.

It said it was also exploring the possibility for solar energy in the area and how Knapton could be used for off-grid hydrogen production.

Greg McKenna, managing director of Centrica Business Solutions, said:

“Taking an old fossil fuel asset and revitalising it to help advance the decarbonisation of the grid not only feels the right thing to do from a sustainability point of view, but aligns with our strategy.

“We’re quickly acquiring a portfolio of assets that can play an important role in facilitating a net zero future for the UK.”

Centrica said the first project at the site would be a 56MWh battery that would use some of the 41.5MW export capability of Knapton’s grid connection. This would be able to power about 14,000 homes for two hours, the company said.

Third Energy is expected to comment on the deal.

12 replies »

    • The Knapton site is a brownfield site, having previously been used for a gas turbine power station, so an eyesore and loss of agricultural land doesn’t come into it here. And whilst I don’t think solar should be permitted on top grade, quality agricultural land, roofs and elsewhere should be the first choice, if we are to have a habitable planet green energy is the only way to go and battery power is a key part of maximising renewable power, rather than paying to switch it off as now, and helping to balance the grid.

      • Kat
        Re batteries, I do not see the concern re batteries to be a big issue. The larger issue is one of acceptance of a move to net zero and the sacrifices to be made to do so. Lots of councils and people happy to sign up to the climate emergency, not so many as keen to give up with they have, to do so. There is insufficient brownfield land to go round for all the things everyone want to put on it. You would not want to swap your view of wheat or biofuel fields for solar panels 16ft high. A walk round the solar farm may not sound as appealling as a walk in the fields.

        Food security has suddenly appeared as an issue, but this in a land with fields of biofuel, turf deserts, golf courses, horse paddocks (we do not eat turf, nor golf balls) and so on.

        But food security has only appeared on the back of solar farm planning. So OK to import fossil fuels, but not to good to import food. Lots of discussions to have on the move to net zero

  1. It does come into it KatT as such a brownfield site was a greenfield site previously to being a brownfield site!

    Might be interesting to see what you post about on shore oil sites and their use after they have finished. OMG, would appear that it is the anti policy that such could be used for any old industrial use. Be careful what you wish for, it could happen-and it could be a lot worse than what was before.

    • Martin

      One concern re the 7000 acre solar farm is that when finished, the land would be classed as brownfield, and hence open to all sorts of evil things, such as housing. The Solar company say they would restore it to agriculture, but they have been accused of lying. Sad to see green companies moved from shining examples of humanity and somehwere you should stuff council workers pensions into, to being just the same as oil companies. They lie about what they intend to do, lie about the energy that will be produced, lie about the environmental impact, employ bully person tactics to get their way, will industrialise the countryside, cause untold mental harm etc etc etc. Those who work for them have taken the evil shilling and would not be welcome in polite society!

      Where to stand on these issues? As I go into battle to defend the installation of solar, will I be accused of being a Solar Company shill, typing away into the night in the defence of companies who care not about the local population, the local heritage, biodiversity and are only in it for the money?

      Is this a new opportunity for drill or drop? Will old adversaries find themselves on the same side, or will anti frackers become anti renewables, and pro frackers pro renewable? Or is it just a case of the chickens coming home to roost?

      • Hewes62, I think it’s down to us to take a stand for what we believe in whether or not we get called names. Just like those of us that have opposed fracking and we’ve been called plenty of names!

        I think if you stick to the facts most people see the common sense in the end and I think most people, as shown in surveys, value the countryside highly. I think that food production and farming along with so many things will change in order to become more sustainable. We are now at long last starting to appreciate more the importance of the natural environment in tackling climate change and sustainable food production/security.

        The government has power to alter planning policy and legislation, agreements can be enforced to ensure the land is restored to previous condition. There are huge changes that we are all going to have to make personally, some will not be easy, and governments need to get serious and strategic about implementing climate change policies.

        I think at long last that many people, including the CCC, consider building huge housing developments in the countryside is not a sustainable way forward. As there is little infrastructure, including school places, GP places, dental places nor public transport available to support such developments. So people just put more strain on existing resources and more cars on the road. I read recently of a GP practice in Oxfordshire where their patient numbers had doubled because of a new housing development, but of course, with a national shortage of GPs, there were no new GPs to employ! These sort of issues must be taken fully into account, the idea of forcing councils to meet new housing targets, irrespective of local circumstances, cannot be the right or sensible way to tackle the shocking housing shortage.

  2. I can only speak of my local experience, hewes62, where the solar farm was built on greenfield land, acquired with a 99 year lease. Farmer was pretty happy as he was fed up working 24/7 for little return. However, clever legal chappies then got to work and hey presto, a housing estate suddenly gets planning on neighbouring greenfield land as a precedence had been set.

    Industrialisation of land is just that, no matter what the green lobby would like to present. On shore wind turbines are an eyesore and a noisy one too. Poor Cathy would have been double doomed if they were buzzing away on the Heights whilst she was crying by the window! Stick them out in the sea-more wind and advantages of scale possible.

    Perhaps the site could be covered with a battery farm-if they were still allowed-and more than 14k homes could be supplied with eggs continuously?

    However, some signs of sanity in Germany where they are looking to ban farm land being used to grow crops for biofuel. Mind you, with restricted land “we” could always grow higher yields on remaining land with increased fertilizer use! Oops, on no “we” couldn’t. That baby has gone with the bath water.

    • Martin
      Indeed – a worrying issue, although I guess those who buy new houses next to solar farms will not be complaining about the view if the solar farm is there before the housing.

  3. hewes62

    Indeed, except there are now good green fields under glass AND houses as a result. Plus, the houses in question had the odd solar panel on one or two roofs but the heating is gas for all.

    I am old enough to recall the US ships trundling around the world delivering surplus grain to areas that desperately needed it, whenever that was the case. Somewhere and someone over the decades has ignored that population growth and other agricultural factors has diminished that as a safety valve.

    Sustainable farming has long been the case in the UK, but it evolves. Dyson has been doing some good work with technology input onto his extensive farming interests allowing tighter targeted inputs and that is probably the way to go rather than muck and magic- which has it’s place but often at the expensive end of the shopping aisle. Farming still has the major requirement to sustain all of the population, as is the case with energy provision. Both areas are being spoken about as some new utopia, yet even the transition along that path currently looks to be pretty disastrous from the cost of living evidence. The powers that be just suggest more of what is failing is what is required. Hey ho, they will be transient and others will take their place and probably do the same. Somewhere along the path some might actually have to explain such things that it was always known that the wind doesn’t blow all the time, and was projected to do so less in the future over Europe, and £200B needed to be spent on new nuclear, and what the generation costs would be and how that would appear on energy bills and what the costs of waste disposal would be. Not sure that individuals and industry will have tax payers supporting energy costs continuously though. Meanwhile, the “cheap” renewables will continue to be trotted out as such ignoring the huge “insurance” costs, the £5k heat pumps will be promoted whilst a heating engineer tells you it would be at least £20k, and boiled eggs and soldiers will be a luxury breakfast whilst wheat is used as a fuel that decreases fuel efficiency so it also costs more to go and buy your eggs and bread! Then, one day, there might even be an explanation as to how fuel duty, only £20-£30B per year, will be recovered when such fuel is no longer being used. How is there such a mystery currently about that even when the decision has been made? Then there is the £50+B to up-grade the national grid. I have looked down the back of my sofa, but only discovered crumbs and dust. Also, no one will have noticed and remembered the call to go diesel a few years ago and not notice that diesel is now around 20p/liter more expensive as nothing was done about UK diesel production capacity, with the same powers that were, still pontificating about the environment, whilst those over the horizon, those producing the diesel for export, are gaining the taxation to spend on improving their environment, if they so wish!

    Not progressing very well when even the cart and horses are round the wrong way. For the future of the grandchildren, perhaps they need to be more concerned about what they might inherit financially from the grandparents-they will certainly need it! If unlucky, and most will be, they can become really angry.

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