UK Energy Minister back shale gas on eve of fracking decision

Third Energy Kirby Misperton onshore exploration site
Third Energy Kirby Misperton onshore exploration site

Councillors meet today to decide whether to grant a planning application to drill a shale gas test well in North Yorkshire in what is likely to be seen as a precedent for the industry in the UK (outwith Scotland)

The application by Third Energy for the well at Kirby Misperton has been recommended for approval by planning officials.

Although not commenting specifically on the Third Energy application, Andrea Leadsom, UK junior energy minister – and keen supporter of British Independence from the EU-Bloc – said recently that ‘shale is a fantastic opportunity for the UK’.

She said: “Shale gas is crucial for the UK to secure future energy and is a ‘green, clean, bridge’ to help us move away from expensive imports.

“So initial exploratory wells are important to determine how much gas can be produced.”

The global hydraulic fracturing market is expected to reach more than $80 billion by 2024, according to a new report by California-based consulting/research firm Grand View Research.

And the British Geological Society has indicated that there are substantial shale reserves in in northern England and in the Weald in southern England, as well as across the Central Belt in Scotland.

Last year, the SNP Scot-Govt. imposed a ‘temporary’ moratorium on shale gas exploration pending the outcome of a further review of scientific evidence.

Last month, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon escalated her anti-shale position to ‘deeply sceptical’ in her party’s manifesto for the Holyrood elections.

Last week, she reshuffled former Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing out of that job by promoting him into the Cabinet as Rural Economy Minister in an attempt to smooth over internal SNP divisions over shale energy.

INEOS – which owns and operates the Grangemouth petro-chem refinery – also holds shale gas exploration licences in Scotland and England. But the company – which is now shipping tanker-loads of US shale gas to Grangemouth because N. Sea supplies are dwindling – is meanwhile expected to focus its exploration activity south of the border.

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