Could gas ‘fracking’ come to Scarboro’?

Protestors scale a shale gas rig at Banks, near Southport, Merseyside bringing a halt to work at the Cuadrilla Resources site.
Protestors scale a shale gas rig at Banks, near Southport, Merseyside bringing a halt to work at the Cuadrilla Resources site.

Scarborough could find itself at the centre of controversial “fracking” plans after the area was identified as a hot bed for shale gas.

Should commercial extraction become a reality locally, the communities directly affected are set to receive a promised £100,000 per well.

In a report by the British Geological Survey, a key well has been identified in Cloughton for providing information about shale gas potential under Scarborough.

Other key sites for exploration in the area can be found on the outskirts of Malton in Kirby Misperton, High Hutton and Duggleby.

The wells sit on the Bowland-Hodder basin, which stretches from Northern Wales to the North York Moors and contains as much 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale.

The find has been welcomed by the Government in its bid to exploit a cheaper energy supply.

As a result tax breaks and more streamlined planning processes have been announced, along with a promise of £100,000 worth of community benefits per well, as well as one per cent of revenue from every production site going to its local community.

Energy minister Michael Fallon said: “Shale gas represents an exciting new potential energy resource for the UK.” Giving enthusiastic backing Mr Fallon said shale gas extraction could “contribute to our energy security, increase investment, create tax revenue, and generate significant income for communities”.

However the process of shale gas extraction, known as fracking, has attracted wide spread opposition.

The technique involves drilling down into the earth before a high pressure water and chemical mixture is used to break down the rock and release the gas inside.

Fracking was blamed for two small earthquakes which hit the Blackpool area in 2011, with opponents also raising fears that chemicals used in the process may escape and contaminate ground water.

Scarborough Green Party cllr Dilys Cluer said: “I’m against the whole idea for a number of reasons. Firstly its a fossil fuel which we shouldn’t be using anymore, Secondly quite a large amount of water is used in the process, and also there is a high chance of pollution to water supplies.

“On top of all that around eight per cent of the gas actually leaks into the atmosphere during the process. People complain wind farms are ugly but they are nothing compared to a fracking rig.”

Companies wishing to extract shale gas will have to apply for a mineral extraction licence, with the next round of applications due to be received in 2014. Planning permission from the relevant local authority will then need to be obtained.

It is not believed any licences have been issued for shale gas extraction in the North Yorkshire area so far.

Mark Hall, head of development management at the North York Moors National Park Authority said: “We haven’t had any discussions about shale or fracking with companies.

“The Government is looking to issue licences to explore extraction so we are just going to keep an eye on that.

“We are protected by policy which states there should not be major extraction of minerals in a national park. However there is that possibility that that could be overturned if there is a case of national interest.”