UK Government to Turn Up the Heat in Move to Boost Shale Gas Industry

The shale gas industry has responded to a report that local communities in the UK could lose the right to block shale gas projects by reiterating the heavily-regulated nature of the industry and noting that most people in the country want to see the UK prioritize the production of natural gas.

UK national newspaper The Sunday Telegraph reported that a leaked government document reveals that government ministers are seeking to foil anti-fracking groups by classifying shale gas wells as "nationally significant infrastructure", which would remove the right of local authorities to block planning applications for wells in their regions.

Environmental pressure group Friends of the Earth said that the leaked document – a letter to Chancellor George Osborne that was written by Energy Secretary Amber Rudd, Communities Secretary Greg Clark and Environment Secretary Liz Truss – demonstrated that the current UK government is prepared to "trample on local democracy".

In a statement sent to Rigzone, UKOOG – the industry body that represents companies that drill onshore for oil and gas in the UK – said that the industry "is committed to consulting and working with local communities to develop the gas resources that this country needs to access to strengthen its energy security". It also pointed out that recent research conducted by ComRes revealed that 55 percent of the UK population wants to prioritize gas produced in the UK, including shale gas produced by hydraulic fracturing, over energy imported from overseas.

UKOOG Chief Executive Ken Cronin commented in the statement:

"This is a heavily-regulated industry with four separate regulators, all with their own suite of oversight. Recent experience has shown that the planning process for exploration needs to be made quicker and within prescribed timescales. The time taken for planning decisions has soared from three months to over a year and this is prohibitively expensive for local councils and operators.

"However it is important that local people can put forward their point of view and they are assured that the highest standards of safety and environmental protection are met, but unless the industry can drill exploratory wells we will not know whether gas can be produced economically and safely… By 2030, 80 percent of our gas will be imported from overseas."

A former engineer, Jon is an award-winning editor who has covered the technology, engineering and energy sectors since the mid-1990s. Email Jon at jmainwaring@rigzone.com

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