THE energy firm behind plans to frack in Ryedale has announced it has dropped its ambition and instead is working towards environmentally-friendly schemes.

Almost four years after North Yorkshire County Council’s planning committee granted planning permission for hydraulic fracturing of rock to extract gas in Kirby Misperton, the same body heard Third Energy wanted to focus on greener uses for its existing conventional gas operations.

The firm’s original plan had seen Kirby Misperton become a frontline in the national battle over fracking with more than 80 protesters arrested as they hampered the firm’s wish to be the first to frack in the UK for years.

Third Energy spent millions developing its site and hundreds of thousands of pounds from the public purse was spent policing the site before a government financial review led to test work being put on hold and last year ministers announcing a moratorium on fracking.

The firm’s operations director Shaun Zablocki told councillors it was now examining a change in direction.

As councillors considered back-dated 17-year extensions to Third Energy’s operations at several well sites in the Vale of Pickering, including at Kirby Misperton, Mr Zablocki said uncertainty in planning and regulatory environment for the business had resulted in a temporary suspension of electricity generation by gas production and the loss of 11 local jobs.

He said the firm was now considering how its electricity generating plant at Knapton and the remaining gas in its wells could be used in various business models, all of which would be considered as contributing to the government’s 2050 net zero carbon aspirations.

Mr Zablocki said Third Energy was examining a combined heat and power project with local businesses, geothermal schemes, cleaner electricity generation and carbon capture projects.

He said: “The company recognises the world’s energy systems need to change and is ready and willing to play a positive role in that change.”

Jim Tucker, of Frack Free Ryedale, urged the committee to reject the firm’s plans saying while Third Energy’s plans would generate 0.1 per cent of the UK oil and gas industry’s net emissions, the effect of the proposals and 999 similar ones “would leave us nationally exactly where we are today”.

He said: “Somebody has to take the first step towards reducing our carbon emissions. Quickly reviewing the blanket 17-year extension period would put North Yorkshire in control and send an important message that change has to start.”

Cllr John McCartney told the meeting that using gas to make electricity was “staggeringly inefficient”, but the other members voted in favour of allowing Third Energy to continue its Vale of Pickering operations until 2035.