Another step towards commercial fracking

Shale gas fracking has taken another step forward with the UK government opening the bidding process for onshore licenses. However, a license is only the first stage. Any actual fracking requires planning permission as well. At the same time the UK government has issued new planning guidance for England that places some restrictions on fracking in national parks and other environmentally sensitive areas.

Business and Energy Minister Matthew Hancock said: “Unlocking shale gas in Britain has the potential to provide us with greater energy security, jobs and growth. We must act carefully, minimising risks, to explore how much of our large resource can be recovered to give the UK a new home-grown source of energy. As one of the cleanest fossil fuels, shale gas can be a key part of the UK’s answer to climate change and a bridge to a much greener future.”

However, Greenpeace said millions of homeowners have been stripped of their right to stop companies drilling under their property and now communities will face a “fracking postcode lottery”. “The government has fired the starting gun on a reckless race for shale that could see fracking rigs go up across the British countryside, including in sensitive areas such as those covering major aquifers. Eric Pickles’s supposed veto power over drilling in national parks will do nothing to quell the disquiet of fracking opponents across Britain.”

On the same day, the Scottish Government’s expert panel reported that there are significant reserves of unconventional gas in Scotland, the exploitation of which could result in new jobs.

The chairman of the Expert Scientific Panel, Dr Chris Masters, said: “It is clear the development of unconventional hydrocarbons has had a profound effect on the economy of the United States with global repercussions in terms of gas and chemical feedstock prices. While it is unlikely that Scotland, or indeed Europe, would benefit to a similar degree, there could be a number of positive economic impacts.”

However, the panel did recognise public concerns over fracking and the need for detailed consultation with communities. The Scottish Government welcomed the report and has established a group to examine the findings.

Friends of the Earth Scotland said: “This report raises a number of very serious concerns including impacts on public health and climate. The analysis clearly demonstrates that even if all the environmental, health and regulatory issues could be overcome, there still wouldn’t be a US-style bonanza here, simply because the cost of extraction and the technical and geological challenges are too great. It is simply wishful thinking to imagine that it is possible to safely frack for unconventional gas in the most densely populated part of the country.”

One step forward for the industry, but still some way to go.

  • Posted in: Gas

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