The British government has today given the go-ahead to drill exploratory wells for shale gas in Lancashire.
The decision by England’s Communities Minister Sajid Javid to uphold the appeal by Cuadrilla for its Preston New Road site at Little Plumpton overturns the rejection of the application at first level by the local council.
But Javid deferred a final decision on a second site at nearby Roseacre Wood.
Energy companies believe trillions of cubic feet of shale gas – at least equal to, and possibly greater than, the whole of the North Sea resource – may be recoverable from beneath parts of the UK – including the Central Belt in Scotland.
More than 200 onshore exploration licences have been awarded to energy companies in England. The minority SNP-led Scottish government imposed a ‘temporary’ ban on planning applications for shale gas exploration last year.
Francis Egan, Chief Executive of Cuadrilla, said: “We are very pleased that we can now move ahead with our shale gas exploration plans, which will start to create new economic growth opportunities and jobs for people in Lancashire and the UK.
“We hope this will reassure the minority of people whom remain sceptical about shale gas exploration. This news has given Lancashire a big vote of confidence in its economic and energy future.”
“The country needs gas. The country is running out of gas, and without some form of energy development, we’re going to end up importing all of our fuel from overseas, and we’ve seen that just last week with the ridiculous situation where Scotland is importing shale gas from America, which, frankly, is crazy.”
Ken Cronin, Chief Executive of UKOOG (the onshore oil and gas trade body) commented: “The approval of the application at Preston New Road is an important step forward towards determining what gas resources we have under our feet, with the aim of developing a sustainable onshore natural gas exploration industry in the UK.
“We need the gas to heat our homes, produce electricity, supply our industries and to reduce our dependency on imports. The onshore oil and gas industry is committed to producing this gas in the safest and most environmentally sensitive way possible and to creating jobs and opportunities in the supply chain.”
Chris Lewis, Energy Partner at EY – a key speaker at the 2016 UK Shale Energy Conference held last week by the Scottish Energy Association** – said:
“The decision to approve shale gas exploration opens a window to a £33 billion investment opportunity and the potential to create over 64,000 jobs in the UK.
“Scuring the future of the next generation of energy users requires that we maintain an open mind when it comes to building the UK’s energy mix.
“Investing in home grown energy in the form of shale gas can reduce the UK’s reliance on expensive higher cost imported gas. Gas currently heats 80% of our homes and provides 50% of our dispatchable power generation capacity.
“Now that the launch pad is in place, the focus needs to be on getting on with exploration, developing the relevant skills needed to unlock investment and working closely with local communities.”
Shale heralds a ‘golden age for gas’
Gas industry expert John Baldwin, Managing Director, CNG Services – and one of the architects the renewable gas industry in the UK – welcomed the government’s shale gas decision.
“This heralds a golden age for gas in the UK and will benefit the environment from day one,” he said.
“It has always been very difficult to understand why environmental activists are opposed to shale gas. UK shale gas has a much lower carbon footprint than imported LNG whether from Qatar or made from US shale gas.
“Gas is the ideal fuel for back-up generation for intermittent wind and solar especially if produced in the UK with a low ‘well head to burner tip’ carbon footprint.
“We are very lucky to have our own domestic shale reserves which we can exploit now. Shale gas will give the UK a massive environmental and financial boost and the tax received can be used to fund gas demand reduction and renewables.”
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** Speaker presentations are available on the Scottish Energy Association website from w/b 3 October 2016: www.wearesea.com