Third Energy, one of the firms at the frontline of the UK’s fracking drive, has been hit by the departure of two of its directors due to delays over its flagship project in North Yorkshire. Campaigners said the resignations were a sign of a company “in meltdown”.
The Barclays-backed company had looked likely to be the first shale explorer to frack in the UK for years, but its plans for the KM8 well have been pushed back by government checks over its financial health.
Third Energy had already delayed fracking to this autumn, but the Guardian understands there will almost certainly be no fracking this year at the well, near the village of Kirby Misperton.
The resignation of Keith Cochrane, the former interim chief executive of outsourcing firm Carillion, and Jitesh Gadhia, a Conservative party peer and Tory donor, was disclosed in company filings this week.
Third Energy, which has been waiting nearly a year for a government consent to frack, admitted their departure was due to the KM8 project being in limbo.
“As the hydraulic fracturing programme and further development is currently delayed, with resulting low levels of activity, the company has accepted the directors’ resignations,” a spokesperson said.
Russell Scott, a member of anti-fracking group Frack Free Ryedale, said: “It is no surprise these two directors are retreating from what is clearly a company in meltdown.”
Third Energy has also stopped retaining the services of its City PR firm, NewGate Communications, while the fracking plans remained unclear.
So far, Centrica-backed Cuadrilla has been the only shale gas explorer to secure a fracking consent from government. The company was expected to begin fracking at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire within weeks.
Other companies have further to go before they even begin applying for permission to frack.
The petrochemicals giant Ineos has been bogged down in planning battles, though it recently won planning approval to drill an exploratory well in Derbyshire. Other sites run by iGas are more advanced, with one well in Nottinghamshire expected to be drilled later this year.
The exit by the two Third Energy directors came amid reports that the government was facing a backlash from around 20 Tory MPs voting against its proposals to fast-track shale projects through the planning system.
One Conservative party MP told the Guardian: “There is a clear Tory rebellion brewing.”