Fracking Is Given Go-Ahead By Ministers
A ban on the controversial process of shale gas exploration known as fracking has been lifted by the Government.
Gas company Cuadrilla has been given the go-ahead to resume operations in Lancashire, which were halted in 2011 when test-drilling caused two minor earthquakes.
Despite the concerns of environmental groups, exploration can now continue subject to regular seismic risk assessments.
The move was welcomed by business chiefs but campaigners called it "reckless" and a "massive gamble", insisting the focus should be on renewable energy.
Energy Secretary Ed Davey insisted it would not undermine efforts to slash carbon emissions and promised that communities and environments would be protected.
The new safeguards include:
:: having a review before fracking begins to assess seismic risk and any faults;
:: the submission of a fracking plan to the Energy Department setting out how the seismic risks will be addressed;
:: seismic monitoring before, during and after the procedure;
:: a new traffic light system to categorise seismic activity, with a trigger demanding work stops when a certain level is reached.
Fracking involves drilling holes deep into the ground and then using high-pressure liquid to fracture shale rocks to release gas trapped inside.
Cuadrilla believes it could supply a quarter of the UK's gas needs from the resource in Lancashire, leaving the country less reliant on foreign imports from Qatar or Russia.
It is the only company yet to apply for an exploratory drilling licence and its site near Blackpool is currently the only proposed shale gas operation.
The go-ahead for work to re-start came after the Treasury signalled its support for the budding industry, proposing tax relief and unveiling a gas generation strategy.
Mr Davey said: "Shale gas represents a promising new potential energy resource for the UK. It could contribute significantly to our energy security, reducing our reliance on imported gas, as we move to a low-carbon economy."
Cuadrilla boss Francis Egan described the decision as a "turning point for the country's energy future".
"Shale gas has the potential to create jobs, generate tax revenues, reduce our reliance on imported gas, and improve our balance of payments," he said.
"Our exploration has shown that under Lancashire there is a belt of gas-filled shale over one mile thick.
"Today's decision will allow continued exploration and testing of the UK's very significant shale resources in a way that fulfils the highest environmental and community standards."
He stressed that the company was committee to working "safely and responsibly at all times".
Cuadrilla had drilled three exploration wells and started fracking and testing gas flows from one when the tremors were detected and work had to be suspended.
They are in the process of drilling a fourth well and will now have to seek new permits for further work.
The company hopes to have early data on how much gas it could extract by the middle of 2013.
The decision also paves the way for potential exploration of shale reserves elsewhere in the UK, with possible operations in Balcombe, West Sussex, and in the Mendips.
Friends of the Earth executive director Andy Atkins, said: "Communities up and down the country will be disturbed by this reckless decision which threatens to contaminate our air and water and undermine national climate targets.
"George Osborne's short-sighted dash for gas will leave the country dependent on dirty fossil fuels. MPs must stand up for a safe and affordable future by insisting on clean British energy from the wind, waves and sun."
Greenpeace energy campaigner Leila Deen added: "George Osborne's dream of building Dallas in Lancashire is dangerous fantasy. He is not JR Ewing and this is not the US.
"Energy analysts agree the UK cannot replicate the American experience of fracking, and that shale gas will do little or nothing to lower bills.
"Pinning the UK's energy hopes on an unsubstantiated, polluting fuel is a massive gamble and consumers and the climate will end up paying the price."
The Government's own climate advisers have also dismissed claims that exploiting shale gas in the UK and Europe could bring down energy costs.
The Committee on Climate Change's chief executive, David Kennedy, said it was not a "game changer" on this side of the Atlantic because it could only meet a relatively small share of gas demand.
what do you think?
Before North Sea gas we produced domestic gas from coal of which we still have billions of tons beneath our feet. What a pity the politicians closed our mines and made thousands of skilled miners redundant. That cheap foreign coal isn't cheap anymore, long term planning is a skill that British politicians lack.
Agreed John, I worked at a a coal fired power station for nearly 17 years which closed in 1994. As far back as the mid eighties, our engineers were saying it was a mistake to phase out coal. They warned that the so called "dash for gas" would prematurely use up our North sea reserves and that wind power was incapable of meeting the countries needs (even in the eighties, never mind now!!). What should been done was to spread our needs between several different types of fuel (including wind, solar and hydroelectric). With all our coal reserves, we should have been developing cleaner ways to use coal.............
Windows Live User
Agreed John & Gordon We could work on pollution controls. Imported coal is not cheap In this case we would not have our gas under the controls of others. Miners at work. Fabricators, welders, designers, office staff plus plenty more working again. Mechanical and chemical production on the go at last China are belting out power stations by the score without worrying about pollution. I wonder if people think our small efforts in clean energy makes up for the levels of pollution they are now producing ( and growing)
Interestingly something like 40% of our electricity still comes from coal. Checkout <a href="http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk." rel='nofollow'>www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk.</a> Although I don't know how much of that is domestic verses imported.
Gengisken, the UK consumes approximately 50 million tons of coal a year, 32 million tons are imports and 18 million tons are home produced from mainly open cast mines. The UK is quite capable of self sufficiency in coal production and our politicians know this but would rather leave our energy needs to foreign powers for their own twisted reasons.
The spiteful Tories will resist putting British miners back to work and NEW Labour keeps quiet. Disgraceful.
Orange, Can you please explain what the problem is with the word "f u e l s", I have just tried to used it and was blocked by your filters..........
Same with f u n d s
Windows Live User
Not a sensible move by these ministers. They need to look deeper into prospective damage. John is closer to a sensible solution in re-opening mines and re-employing miners and lo and behold we have our own source of gas under our own control
Nice word "fracking" this will sale a lot of my comments being deleted in future as I can use it to replace other expletives!!
It is an expletive in the modern remake of battlestar galactica Although that spelling of the word doesnt have a C in it
Energy = power. Power in the form of electricity etc. but the real power is the economic power it can give us. Thatcher, especially, weakened this nation dreadfully by closing the mines, shutting down the coalgas industry and wasting our North Sea oil and gas reserves by selling it off cheaply to finance the massive dole ques she had created. (She did this because she saw the future to be in banking and insurance. No need to elaborate.) China understand the importance of cheap power for her people. If Cameron or anyone else thinks this country will survive and thrive on the back of windmills he is a silly dreamer.
Spot on Brian.
Basic facts OK but in reality there were other factors which needed breaking for the sake of the nation however she had the expertise of an American - need I say more ! All that said now IS the time to look at what is possible using the staples problem is those in London lack the grey stuff to think it through
Is there a spelling mistake - we seem to need permission for everything else
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I am no expert in this area but understand Brit coal is expensive to mine due to the way the seams lie. This said the generation can be clean with the correct equipment fitted so should we not be looking at new technologies in coal powered systems using domestic coal - better than those darn wind farms which have a finite life. There are also technologies which could burn domestic waste and generate electricity but government know best - I just wonder who is making on this?