THE continued delay on the final Government sign-off of fracking operations at Kirby Misperton has led to a gas firm releasing some of its contractors' equipment while it waits.

Third Energy released a statement this afternoon which said that there will be "a further period" before sign-off and the process "may take some time."

The firm also thanked residents for their patience during the wait.

The move comes following a statement from Greg Clark, secretary of state for business, which said that, although he is satisfied with that technical specifications have been met, he is asking for a further financial assessment of the company to be undertaken.

A spokesperson for Third Energy said: "We are very pleased that Greg Clark has confirmed that we have met all of the thirteen technical requirements set out in in section 4A of the Petroleum Act 1998.

"Before the secretary of state will give final consent to hydraulically fracture the KM8 well, he has asked the Oil & Gas Authority, working with the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, to undertake a review of Third Energy’s financial resilience that includes the eventual decommissioning of the site.

"We will be providing the information required for this review to be completed.

"This means that there will be a further period before we can expect final consent from the Government to proceed with our operations.

"As this process may take some time we have agreed with the relevant contractors to release some of their equipment from site; namely the coil tubing unit, the well control unit and the workover rig.

"This will allow our contractors to deploy their equipment to other projects during the financial review."

The company said it would maintain the "majority" of the operational equipment onsite and "continue all of the monitoring requirements set by the regulators".

They added that North Yorkshire County Council and the Police have been informed about the planned lorry movements.

"We will be working with them to ensure they are undertaken safely and without disruption to residents," the spokesperson said.


No more protests

Third Energy also called for a halt to protests during the lull.

Its spokesperson said: "We appreciate that this situation creates further uncertainty for residents and we thank them for their patience.

"Given that there will be no hydraulic fracturing operations at the site until final consent is received, we hope that the protestors will also give residents a break from their campaign of disruption and this will enable everyone to resume their normal daily lives and also reduce pressure on North Yorkshire Police."

The local group 'Ryedale Against Anti-social Protestors' (RAAP) echoed this, with a spokesperson saying: "We welcome Third Energy’s statement and hope that the anti-social protesters will now take heed and leave the community in peace.

"Local residents are keen for their normal way of life to resume without the stress and anxiety of not knowing if they will be able to go about their everyday lives without disruption."

However, a spokesperson for the anti-fracking Kirby Misperton Protection Camp pledged to "continue to peacefully protest" and said: "The fact that contractors are recalling their equipment while the government investigates Third Energy's finances doesn’t bode well for the health of the company.

"We would suggest it's time for Third Energy to pack up and leave completely. The last two weeks have seen four rejections of fracking applications in the north of England.

"The tide has turned against the industry; fracking is a dead duck."

Friends of the Earth fracking campaigner Rose Dickinson added: "This welcome news is a further blow to the fracking industry, and a major boost for everyone working to prevent fracking in Ryedale.

"Whilst fracking has failed to deliver for the last six-and-a-half years, renewable energy has gone from providing a tenth of our electricity to supplying a third of it.

"The government should finally pull the plug on fracking: it makes no sense for our environment, our climate or our energy needs."


Other gas field developments

Also in its statement, Third Energy said it is investing in its 'conventional' gas fields - non fracking sites - in the area.

The company said: "We are pleased to report that initial results from our project to enhance gas flows are showing encouraging results.

"As part of our ongoing investment in the conventional fields, we have initiated the process of extending a range of permissions for the Vale of Pickering well sites and pipelines and the Knapton Generating Station."