Hydraulic Fracturing: Green light at last
Last week Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd confirmed that Councils will be told that they must rule on all hydraulic fracturing planning applications within the mandatory 16-week deadline, or face the possibility of losing the right to decide all future similar applications in that area. As a follow up, Communities Minister Greg Clark will be issuing guidance to planning authorities, advising planning officers on how to deal with such applications.
Councils will no doubt be grateful that the matter is to a certain extent being 'taken out of their hands'. There has been some speculation in the press that decisions such as the Cuadrilla Preston Road refusal (where the application was thought likely to win on appeal) was in part at least motivated by the Council's desire to avoid any difficulties caused by protests and protestors.
Yesterday ministers announced the winners of 27 new exploration blocks, being the first onshore drilling licenses to be awarded in seven years. Successful companies include Cuadrilla Resources, IGas, Egdon Resources, Ineos and GDF Suez. The licenses will unlock an area covering around 1,000 square miles with a further 5,000 square miles (132 blocks) earmarked for future development (subject to further assessment under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010).
As Amber Rudd says: "Britain is currently on course to be importing about 75 per cent of its oil and gas resources by 2030 - we need more home-grown energy supplies and shale gas must play a part in that."
So the message so long voiced by the fracking industry that "even with an end goal of decarbonisation, it is not a choice of 'gas, or no gas' but a question of 'how much gas?' and 'how reliable (and expensive) is the supply?'", seems finally to have been heard and acted upon by the government.
Quite simply, with serious, unanswered questions as to the future and cost of conventional energy supply and a renewables industry that (as yet) is nowhere close to making up the shortfall, it would seem that we cannot afford to ignore the shale option.
Unsurprisingly the moves have been welcomed enthusiastically by the industry with Ken Cronin, the chief executive of UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG) predicting that the move could boost UK energy security and cut emissions and the CEO of INEOS Shale Gary Haywood saying " We welcome the announcement by the UK Government and the significant support from DECC to move this important industry forward. Shale gas is a once in a lifetime opportunity that the UK cannot afford to miss".
For further information please contact Emily Tetley-Jones.