Fracking could begin in the UK sooner than previously expected, following the government’s decision to award onshore oil and gas exploration licences in two stages, fast tracking the applicants whose proposals do not require extensive environmental assessment.
The department for energy and climate change (DECC) will grant a number of licences from the fourteenth round of onshore applications over the next few weeks.
Licence applications that require additional environmental checks will be delayed however.
The UK’s shale industry has not enjoyed as dramatic and upward trajectory as that of the US, and was recently dealt a major blow when planning applications made by Cuadrilla Resources to drill in Lancashire were rejected, a decision the company described as “regrettable”.
Fracking, as hydraulic fracturing is widely known, is a somewhat controversial method of onshore oil and gas extraction, and environmental groups continue to oppose the industry moving forward in the UK.
The government is aiming to drive the development of the UK’s shale sector, which will help to create jobs and grow local economies, and has projected investment in the industry reaching £33bn.
The deadline for applications in the most recent round closed last October.
Energy minister Andrea Leadsom said DECC is aware of the importance of the results of the fourteenth round of onshore licence applications: “That’s why we’ll be pressing ahead and announcing early the winners of licence blocks that do not need further environmental assessment.”
Leadsom added: “We want to get shale moving, and this is a clear example of the government’s progress, while still upholding our strong environmental controls.”