UK grants Third Energy Right to Create Five Fracture in Vertical Gas Well

UK grants Third Energy Right to Create Five Fracture in Vertical Gas Well

Third Energy UK Gas Ltd. has been awarded permission to hydraulically fracture an existing UK natural gas well, surmounting last-minute protests and reviving a practice not used in Britain for five years.

North Yorkshire County Council on Monday approved a proposal by Third Energy to create five fractures in an existing vertical gas well, putting an end to a year-long process initially estimated to take 16 weeks. On Friday and Monday the council heard from about 75 out of about 3,000 people that have indicated they oppose the application and 19 who were in favor, including four company employees.

While the council was only allowed to consider legal issues related to the planning specifics in Third Energy’s application, the decision comes in the middle of a broad, national debate about fracing, the U.K.’s gas supply, climate change and energy security. Plunging domestic gas production has caused Prime Minister David Cameron’s government to support fracing to shore up energy supplies.

Fracing caused tremors in the UK in 2011 after Cuadrilla Resources Ltd. unknowingly drilled into an area with a fault. A moratorium on hydraulic fracturing was put in place from November 2011 to December 2012 as the government revamped legislation, partly to address widespread concern the technique is unsafe.

Nearly a third of Britons disapprove of fracing, while about a fifth approve, according to a government poll published last month. Positive sentiment toward the technique has fallen since December 2013, when nearly 30% were in favor, while opposition has jumped about 10 percentage points.

The UK may have as much as 26 Tcf of technically recoverable shale gas, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in 2013, or about nine years of the nation’s gas consumption. It should become clearer whether other companies will be able to resume fracing in the UK by the end of the year.

An application by Cuadrilla to drill eight exploratory wells in Northern England has been under consideration by local officials for three years and will be decided on by Secretary of State for Communities Greg Clark by July 4. Ineos Group, the UK’s largest closely held company by sales, expects fracing in the country within two years and estimates seismic surveying will be completed in about six months. IGas Energy Plc is looking at existing data on exploration blocks awarded to it by the UK government to determine areas rich in shale gas deposits.

Units of Engie SA and Total SA also have interests in “unconventional” oil and gas exploration blocks in the UK, according to government filings.

Approval of Third Energy’s application would be “a good thing for industry,” said Tom Pickering, operations director at Ineos Shale, in an interview before the decision. “Seeing those small steps is crucial to just winning public respect.”

Third Energy’s gas application, filed in June 2015, requested permission to fracture an extension of a well drilled in 2013 in the Northern English countryside and carry out associated clean-up and monitoring activities. The company estimates the fracking will be completed within eight weeks and says the purpose is to flow test gas to help determine the volume of reserves in the Bowland Shale.


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