Britain on Thursday formally lifted a moratorium on fracking for shale gas in England that has been in place since 2019, saying strengthening the country’s energy supply was an “absolute priority”.
Energy prices have soared in Europe after Russia invaded Ukraine, and Britain is subsidizing bills for households and businesses at a predicted cost of more than 100 billion pounds ($113 billion). [bold, links added]
New Prime Minister Liz Truss said earlier this month that fracking – extracting shale gas from rocks by breaking them up – would be allowed where it was supported by communities.
Business and Energy Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg said on Thursday all sources of energy needed to be explored to increase domestic production, “so it’s right that we’ve lifted the pause to realize any potential sources of domestic gas”.
Fracking, which has been opposed by environmental groups and some local communities, was banned after the industry regulator said it was not possible to predict the magnitude of earthquakes it might trigger.
Rees-Mogg, however, said the practice was “safe”, and the limits on seismic activity should be re-assessed so it could take place in an “effective and efficient way.”
Cuadrilla, 96% owned by Australia’s AJ Lucas, had the most advanced fracking wells in Britain and found a natural gas resource, but the rules around earth tremors meant its operations had to keep halting, meaning that neither of its two wells could be fully flow-tested.
The company welcomed the decision and said it was committed to returning a portion of any shale gas revenue to local communities.
“Lifting the moratorium will help the shale industry unlock UK onshore natural gas in quantities sufficient to meet the UK’s needs for decades to come,” Cuadrilla CEO Francis Egan said.
Chemicals and energy giant INEOS, which holds several British shale gas exploration licenses, said the government should treat shale gas development as “a national infrastructure priority.”
Experts say restarting the industry will do nothing to ease energy prices this winter, however, since it would take many years for an industry to develop, it remains unclear whether a significant amount of gas could be extracted.
“Even if the risks proved to be manageable and acceptable, shale gas would only make a significant impact to UK supply if, over the next decade, thousands of successful wells were to be drilled,” said Andrew Aplin, Honorary Professor at Durham University.
Moratoriums on fracking in Scotland or Wales will continue, their devolved governments have said.
Read rest at Reuters
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