UK government gives the go-ahead to shale gas extraction

13 December 2012 11:03  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON( ICIS)--The UK’s secretary for energy and climate change announced on Thursday that shale gas drilling is to be allowed to resume in the UK, subject to greater oversight.

Shale gas extraction, or ‘fracking’, is to be subject to new controls intended to reduce the risk of seismic activity, which is what had led to the suspension of shale gas drilling in the country last year.

 A temporary ban on fracking was imposed in June 2011 as a result of fears it may have been the cause of several small earthquakes near Lancashire, UK. Northwest England has been the focus of UK shale gas extraction so far.

The new regulations require companies planning to extract shale to carry out a seismic risk assessment of a site, and to submit a fracking plan to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), showing how seismic risks will be addressed.

Seismic monitoring must also be carried out throughout the process, according to the DECC.

UK policymakers recently announced plans to establish a dedicated office for shale gas – the Office for Unconventional Gas – to simplify regulation and provide a single point of contact for the sector, but energy secretary Ed Davey warned that it would take time before the benefits of shale gas extraction in the UK became apparent.

He said: “In practice, it will be well into next year before any new exploration work has all the necessary consents to proceed. Whether any production operations may be proposed will depend on the success of the exploration work, but, in any event, this is likely to be some years away yet.”

He added that the DECC would be closely observing the first few extraction operations with an independent expert on-site, and that the lessons taken from those projects may inform further legislation.

Davey said: “It would clearly not be right, in our present state of knowledge, to attempt to establish definitive standards, and I have preferred to start on an explicitly cautious basis.”

A 2010 report by the British Geological Survey and DECC estimated that the UK has shale gas reserves of up to 150bn cubic metres.

By: Tom Brown
+44 208 652 3214

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