ANTI-FRACKING campaigners fear York may be targeted for the controversial gas-extraction technique through an energy company’s future plans.

Dart Energy is set to seek permission to sink exploration wells, and ultimately drill for shale gas, at sites where it has licences through a project covering Yorkshire and Humberside, as well as the north-west and East Midlands.

One of those licences covers an area beneath York, from the west of the city towards its centre. Dart has yet to identify which sites it may focus on but expects to lodge planning applications within the next year, with any drilling potentially starting in 2015 or 2016.

A Dart spokesman said a British Geological Survey report found there may be potential for shale gas to be extracted in the York licence block, but further analysis was needed.

Fracking involves firing a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals at rocks to release gas inside and has boosted production and lowered energy prices in the US, but environmental concerns surround the huge amounts of water which must be transported to each site and the risk of chemicals contaminating groundwater, although concerns over earthquakes have been played down.

York environmental campaigner John Cossham said: “There is gas in rocks underneath York which could be extracted and used for energy – making a lot of money for whoever does it – and if there is shale, it could be fracked.

“The most immediate problem is where they would get all the water required and how it would be cleaned up - we’re talking about millions of gallons per frack, hundreds of lorry movements, and the water is contaminated when it comes out of the earth. Will it be taken elsewhere, piped away or left in ponds in the hope it will go away, and what happens if there are spillages?

“The bigger picture is that this does nothing to combat climate change – it will make it worse.”

Richard Lane, of Friends of the Earth in York, said: “A huge amount of damage and disruption could be done to the countryside in the Vale of York through fracking, and we’d urge people to make their feelings known to their council as it seems companies are testing the water.”

Dart said talks with landowners would have to be held before any drilling could take place, and any proposals would undergo full public consultation first.