The Government has officially lifted the lifted the moratorium on fracking in England, paving the way for shale gas generation to bolster the UK’s energy security.
This follows Prime Minister Liz Truss announcing to the House of Commons earlier this month the Government’s intention to lift the ban.
Downing Street will now consider applications for hydraulic fracturing consent, to meet domestic and global need for gas.
Projects will still require local support, and developers will need to have the necessary licences, permissions and consents in place before they can commence operations.
The decision comes alongside the publication of the British Geological Survey’s scientific review into shale gas extraction, which was commissioned earlier this year.
The review has outlined that the UK only has a limited current understanding of domestic geology and onshore shale resources, and the challenges of modelling geological activity in relatively complex geology sometimes found in the country’s shale locations.
The Government believes more sites need to be drilled to gather clearer data and improve the evidence base, with multiple developers are keen to assist with this process.
So far, only three test wells have been hydraulically fractured in the UK to date.
A moratorium on fracking was imposed in 2019 amid concerns over tremors, and the Conservative manifesto in December 2019 said the party would “not support fracking unless the science shows categorically it can be done safely”.
Earlier this year, the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) ordered Cuadrilla to plug the two remaining shale wells.
However, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, NSTA gave fracking a reprieve – pausing its plugging requirement – before the Government decided to conduct a scientific survey on the practice to assess whether the process could be made safer.
Business and Energy Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “In 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.”