'Zero chance' of water contamination, says boss of frack site energy firm
An energy firm preparing to restart fracking for shale gas in the UK later this year says its door is open to anyone with genuine concerns about its operations at the "most heavily monitored piece of real estate in the UK".
But Third Energy, the UK firm that last year secured permission to use an existing gas well near the North Yorkshire village of Kirby Misperton to run test fracks almost two miles underground, said of demonstrators: "We respect their right to protest but they should respect our right to operate."
The Kirby Misperton application was the first to be approved in the UK since 2011, when the industry was effectively halted after minor earth tremors in Lancashire were attributed to test fracking.
Third Energy says it will begin fracking at its KM8 well later this year and director of operations John Dewar is confident he can counter the continuing criticisms of the controversial technique.
Mr Dewar was speaking next to KM8 which was sunk for conventional gas extraction in 2013.
The well head itself is an understated focus for a nationwide controversy, a small, red valve mechanism looking not much bigger than a washing machine.
But what will happen at KM8 some time in the coming months continues to provoke concern and anger among campaigners.
Asked what his message was to protesters, some of whom have set up an anti-fracking camp nearby, Mr Dewar said: " My message to them is that, if they're genuinely concerned, then come and see us, talk to us. We have an open door policy to anyone who has genuine concerns.
"If they're coming just to cause disruption, my message to them is that we will still go ahead.
"Please go away. We respect their right to protest but they should respect our right to operate."
He said: "We were able to drill the well without causing any disruption.
"The hydraulic fracturing operation will take less time, be less disruptive."
One of the continuing concerns about fracking Mr Dewar is most keen to counter is the claim it could contaminate the water supply.
"On this particular site there is absolutely zero chance, and I say zero carefully, of contamination," he said.
Mr Dewar has a very long diagram on the wall of his HQ, about 10 miles drive from KM8, which shows in stark terms the 7,000 to 10,000ft depth of the five intended test fracks and he emphasises just how far this is below the much shallower water bearing aquifer and local wells.
He said the bore hole is fully sealed from the surrounding rock and drinking water is not extracted from the aquifer in the area around Kirby Misperton.
"We wouldn't have had approval from the Environment Agency, the Government and North Yorkshire County Council were we not able to conduct this operation safely," he said.
" So I have absolutely 100% confidence there will not be any contamination issues whatsoever."
He said: " This is the most heavily monitored piece of real estate in the UK.
"We have done 13 baseline studies of this site and the surrounding area including noise, light, seismicity, water and soil.
"You name it, we've been monitoring it and measuring it.
"And we've been doing this before, for a long time.
"We'll be doing it during the operation and we'll be doing it after the operation to prove to the general public and the regulators that we've made no impact."
Third Energy's plan for KM8 was approved last year by North Yorkshire County Council.
Campaigners tried to block the decision in the High Court but a judge dismissed their application for judicial review just before Christmas.
Applications for two test fracking sites in Lancashire, by a different firm, were rejected by councillors although one, at Preston New Road, Fylde, was later given the go-ahead by the Government following an appeal.
Ian Conlan, of Frack Free Ryedale, said: "The health of local residents has had no baseline monitoring so, when they get ill, as has happened, will Third Energy deny it has anything to do with them?
"We look at the well-documented evidence of health impacts contamination in those places which have had fracking, and regulations broken with impunity, not the smooth words of a debt-ridden company desperate to hit the jackpot with fracking.
"Our local communities sent over 4,000 letters of objection, our district, town and parish councils said no."
Sue Gough, who lives close to KM8, said: "How dare John Dewar say they have not caused any disruption?
"He visited a lady who was kept awake all night by the 24/7 drilling and promised double glazing and a job for her husband, this is all on the public record of the planning committee meeting.
"The Tory county councillors who pushed this through should hang their heads in shame at what they are putting our community through.
"We are not going anywhere, it is Third Energy that should go away and leave us alone."
Another Ryedale resident, Robert Laycock, said: "John Dewar will only discuss KM8 but we see the bigger picture, this is the start of fracking 'on an industrial scale' as promised last year by Ineos (another firm involved in fracking applications).
"Our holiday cottage business, Flamingoland, Castle Howard and all the other tourist businesses in this area will all be affected by that.
"He says 'Please go away'. We are not going to go away, we live here. Arrogant man."