The government's official climate change advisors flagged uncertainties surrounding fracking in the UK, but gave a cautious nod to exploratory drilling.
The committee on climate chance (CCC) said that these uncertainties "can only be resolved via exploratory drilling" in a report released today. But even if this produces favourable results other hurdles, such as public opinion, would have to be overcome.
The warning came as it said fracking — which involves drilling deep into and then shooting a high-pressure water mix into rocks to release the gas inside — could go ahead if three key tests are met to ensure the controversial process' compatibility with carbon budgets.
This includes closely monitoring harmful methane gas emissions, as well as adequate regulation to catch and stop potentially significant leaks early.
They also said UK shale gas should displace imported gas rather than increasing domestic consumption, while additional production emissions should be offset through reductions elsewhere.
The government agreed "with the CCC’s conclusion that uncertainty exists, and that exploration is required to determine the potential of both the size of a UK shale industry and its associated emissions footprint."
"The government welcomes the CCC’s primary conclusion that shale gas development at scale ... is compatible with carbon budgets if certain conditions, set out as three 'tests', are met," it added.