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First UK shale gas frack in North Yorkshire weeks away

Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The first frack for shale gas in the UK is just weeks away, according to the company preparing to undertake the controversial technique in North Yorkshire.

Third Energy says it hopes to complete five test fracks before the end of the year, producing gas for its nearby power station.

The firm's KM8 well site, just outside the village of Kirby Misperton, has been besieged by protesters since Third Energy began moving lorries of equipment into the compound last month.

The demonstrators have been accompanied by large numbers of police who have made more than 20 arrests, including women who locked themselves to a concrete-filled tube, and another who protested on top of a lorry.

But Third Energy's technical director Alan Linn said his message to the protesters was: "Allow us to do this and we will be able to demonstrate to you that you don't have anything to worry about."

Speaking at the site, Mr Linn said the final regulatory sign-off was "imminent".

He said: "We're beginning to prepare for the work-over phase of the well and that should commence shortly.

"It will probably take us about two weeks. Once we've completed that successfully then we would begin to move into the frack.

"We can't do that until we've got our final regulatory approvals in place and we hope those will happen imminently.

"We expect to be finished and wrapped up with the actual fracking before the end of the year.

"If we're successful, we should hopefully, by that stage, be producing some gas into the Knapton generating station and producing some electricity."

He said he thought that the Kirby Misperton fracks would change the tone of the conversation about the technique in the UK.

"There's not been an onshore hydrocarbon frack done in the UK, this is the first time," he said.

"The conversation about fracking in this country will be informed by an actual frack. For me that will change everything.

"So there will be no speculation. We will be able to demonstrate and show people the figures.

"And we will see whether, technically, it works or doesn't work and how the work was undertaken safely."

Mr Linn said the protests led to delays on some days but his team had caught up and was broadly on track.

He spoke as contractors on the well site continued to build a 9m sound barrier around a core of shipping containers and scaffolding.

But Mr Linn said he was not anticipating any noise issues from the fracks, which each last around 90 minutes to two hours and will take place only during the day.

Outside the gates on Thursday, protesters continued their demonstration on the quiet country road just south of the village.

Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Mr Thornton, from nearby Pickering, said: "This is just the thin edge of a very frightening wedge.

"We know this is a pivotal well. It all starts with one well and were determined to stop this one.

"The huge majority of the people who turn out every day are local, they tend to be retired - middle England, basically."

The Kirby Misperton fracking would the first in the UK as the only other ongoing project, across the Pennines at Preston New Road, involves drilling a new well.

Third Energy's KM8 was drilled four years ago. The firm said the fracking would take place between 8,000 and 10,000ft underground - around a mile and-a-half.

On Tuesday, the Scottish government said it was extending its moratorium on fracking to a permanent ban.