The UK fracking industry has been given a reprieve by the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), which has lifted an order requiring Cuadrilla to plug and abandon the country’s two remaining horizontal shale gas wells.
It has given the company until July 2023 to evaluate whether it could extract gas safely and provide an alternative energy supply from the two sites in Lancashire.
NSTA said: “The North Sea Transition Authority has looked carefully at this application, alongside recent developments, and agreed to withdraw the requirement to decommission the wells by the end of June,”
This follows the government imposing a moratorium on fracking in 2019, which was followed by orders from the NSTA to scrap the sites last month.
The latest developments reflect the shifting nature of its position amid mass volatility in the energy sector.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to ramp up domestic energy production to ensure secure supplies for consumers.
He is set to unveil the UK’s energy strategy over the coming days, which will call for a ramp up in renewables, nuclear power and North Sea exploration.
However, he is now also reportedly reconsidering the potential role of fracking in the UK’s energy mix.
Following the decision, Cuadrilla said it would temporarily plug the wells and consider its options.
Chief executive Francis Egan said “It is widely acknowledged that natural gas will continue to play a key role in UK energy supply for many decades to come, even as the country transitions to a Net Zero CO2 economy. We remain convinced that the Bowland shale gas resource has the potential to be a very significant contributor to UK energy supply and in particular a source of cost-effective fuel for heating UK homes and businesses.”