Cuadrilla fracking site at Preston, UK

Fracking can restart, says government

The government has lifted the moratorium on shale gas production in England. It has also confirmed its support for a new oil and gas licensing round, expected to be launched by the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) in early October.

It says it is taking steps to increase domestic sources of energy, reduce the UK’s reliance on foreign imports and explore options to boost domestic energy security.

Business and Energy Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “In the light of Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and weaponisation of energy, strengthening our energy security is an absolute priority, and – as the Prime Minister said – we are going to ensure the UK is a net energy exporter by 2040.

“To get there we will need to explore all avenues available to us through solar, wind, oil and gas production. So it’s right that we’ve lifted the pause to realise any potential sources of domestic gas.”

The government is has formally lifted the pause on shale gas extraction and will consider future applications for Hydraulic Fracturing Consent where there is local support. Developers will need to have the necessary licences, permissions and consents in place before they can start operations.

The decision comes alongside the publication of the British Geological Survey’s scientific review into shale gas extraction, commissioned earlier this year. The review recognised that there is limited current understanding of UK geology and onshore shale resources, and the challenges of modelling geological activity in relatively complex geology.

Only three test wells have been hydraulically fractured in the UK so far. The government says more sites need to be drilled in order to gather better data. Lifting the pause on shale gas extraction will enable drilling to gather this further data, building an understanding of UK shale gas resources and how shale gas extraction can be carried out where there is local support.

The new oil and gas licensing round is expected to lead to more than 100 new licences. The NSTA is expected to make a number of new ‘blocks’ of the UK Continental Shelf available, for applicants to bid for licences.

These licences will enable developers to search for commercially viable oil and gas sources within the areas of their licences. Developers will still need to seek regulatory approval for any activities conducted within their licensed area, such as drilling or building infrastructure.

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