Overhauling planning laws key to reviving fracking argues industry body
One of the UK’s leading energy bodies has warned that a revival of fracking has to be married with planning reform.
UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG) told City A.M. this was essential for ensuring supplies can be produced at a rate to ease ultra-high energy bills over the coming years.
The industry group argued that the Government needs to update planning laws so that local authorities could not reject sites out of hand, or obstruct developments at key sites such as the UK’s two remaining horizontal shale wells in Lancashire – currently owned by Cuadrilla.
Charles McAllister, director of policy at UKOOG, was confident if reforms were made, fracking could play a key role in meeting the UK’s energy needs and in driving down bills for businesses and consumers.
He said: “Shale gas is able to deliver more energy per acre per year than any other technology. So, it is logical that the Treasury sees its merits. The British government should act on precedent and unlock the great economic, environmental and geopolitical opportunity waiting under our feet.”
This follows reports – first covered in The Telegraph – that the Treasury will advise the next Prime Minister to greenlight fracking again after a three year moratorium.
Price cap forecasts bring fracking into focus
UKOOG has pointed to estimates from the British Geological Survey there could be as much as 37.6tn cubic metres of shale gas under the ground.
If ten per cent was recoverable, it argues this would be enough to help meet the country’s energy needs for the next five decades.
The Treasury reportedly believes fracking can help ease soaring energy bills as soon as next winter.
This comes amid growing expectations that the energy price cap and business contracts will both spike in the coming months amid continued supply shortages following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Ofgem is expected to announce tomorrow a potential 80 per cent hike in the energy price cap, climbing above £3,500 per year.
Multiple forecasters expect the cap to rise further next year, with Auxilione forecasting a peak of £6,823 per year next April.
The cap is already at an all-time high at £1,971 per year.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is widely expected to beat former Chancellor Rishi Sunak and become the country’s next Prime Minister.
Both candidates have publicly said they would support fracking, provided the projects were supported by local communities.
One fracking firm has told the Treasury that if it is granted a fracking licence immediately, it would be able to inject new supplies into the market by next January, according to The Telegraph.
UKOOG has written to both leadership contenders calling on them to back fracking with planning reforms.
Industry’s long road to recovery
A moratorium on fracking was imposed in 2019 amid concerns over tremors – and the Conservative manifesto in December 2019 said the party “will 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.
This was undertaken by BGS, which handed in its report to the Government earlier this summer, providing advice on the latest scientific evidence around shale gas extraction.
Downing Street is keen to ramp up domestic energy production to reduce its reliance on overseas vendors to meet its consumption needs.
It was expected to make a decision based on the report last month, however this has been delayed following Boris Johnson’s resignation and protracted exit.
The Treasury and Cuadrilla have both been approached for comment.