Frackers yesterday welcomed planning officers’ backing of Cuadrilla’s shale gas proposal at a site in Lancashire, saying it shows that communities are starting to warm to the controversial energy extraction technique.
Lancashire council planning officers recommended that the council should approve Cuadrilla’s fracking application at the Preston New Road site when a decision is made later this month. Planning officers had recommended refusal at the site in January on the grounds of night-time noise, so Cuadrilla submitted additional information on mitigation measures, which led to the proposal being approved. “We note that, as in January, the planning officer’s report is satisfied with all other aspects of the planning applications, in particular with regard to drilling and fracking,” said the firm, which has ex-BP boss Lord Browne as its chairman.
“Cuadrilla’s initial proposal at the Preston New Road site was rejected due to local issues and those hurdles have now been overcome,” said Ken Cronin, chief executive of trade body UKOOG. “This is a big step forward for the industry.”
Fellow shale gas explorer iGas also heralded the news. “It demonstrates how industry can work with communities to successfully mitigate operational impacts,” said the firm. “We were also pleased... that the planning officers have accepted the principle of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas exploration and appraisal.”
Cuadrilla’s other proposal, to frack at a Roseacre Wood site, was rejected solely due to traffic concerns.
“The decision is a positive for the industry as they have approved fracking. A negative would have been them saying no to both sites,” said Andrew Monk, chief executive at VSA Capital.
“I feel confident that councils will slowly dip their toes into the water and allow shale gas exploration.”
The government declined to comment as it is a live application.
Q&A: Despite the protests, will fracking become a reality in Britain?
Q What is hydraulic fracturing and why are people so fracked off?
A Critics claim that the technique, which involves drilling liquid at high pressure into shale rocks to release natural gas, causes earth tremors and water contamination. Local communities are concerned about the noise and traffic when the drilling sites are being set up.
Q So why should local councils agree to shale gas exploration?
A The government has been highly supportive of shale gas, claiming it will improve the UK’s energy security, lower customers’ bills and provide lucrative tax revenues. As such, they’re offering communities £100,000 to host a shale gas site and one per cent of revenues when exploration is successful.
Q Where in the country can shale gas exploration take place?
A The highest-profile proposed sites are in Lancashire and West Sussex. But the government is offering up over half of Britain to would-be frackers.
Q Is anyone actually fracking for shale gas in the UK yet?
A No, but they’re getting closer. The biggest obstacle is getting local councils to approve permits. If Lancashire council approves Cuadrilla’s application later this month, it will be a landmark ruling for the industry.
Q How much gas actually is there and how much money could it make?
A It’s unknown for sure until they start drilling, but a report by the British Geological Survey has suggested there could be enough gas in the north of England alone to supply the UK for more than 40 years. Analysis by the Institute of Directors predicts that investment could peak at £3.7bn a year, supporting 74,000 jobs.