The bidding process for companies seeking licences to explore for onshore oil and gas by means of fracking has opened today.
However, due to the controversial drilling technique, the licences will only provide the first step to starting drilling – but do not give absolute agreement to drill. On top of a licence, any further drilling application will then require planning permission, as well as permits from the Environment Agency and sign-off from the Health and Safety Executive.
Business and Energy Minister Matthew Hancock published details of how companies can apply for licences, which will enable them to start initial exploration for shale gas.
Communities Minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon also made clear the Government’s approach for unconventional hydrocarbons by providing some additional planning guidance for “areas of outstanding beauty, world heritage sites, national parks and The Broads.”
To be certain that this guidance is being applied, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles will give particular consideration to recovering planning appeals arising from these types of developments for at least the next 12 months.
DECC will also require detailed Statements of Environmental Awareness to be submitted with licence applications to these areas, to demonstrate applicants’ understanding of the environmental sensitivities relevant to the area proposed.
Unless DECC is satisfied with the statement the application will be rejected.
Business and Energy Minister Matthew Hancock said: “Unlocking shale gas in Britain has the potential to provide us with greater energy security, jobs and growth. We must act carefully, minimising risks, to explore how much of our large resource can be recovered to give the UK a new home-grown source of energy. As one of the cleanest fossil fuels, shale gas can be a key part of the UK’s answer to climate change and a bridge to a much greener future.
“The new guidance published today will protect Britain’s great national parks and outstanding landscapes. Building on the existing rules that ensure operational best practices are implemented and robustly enforced. Ultimately, done right, speeding up shale will mean more jobs and opportunities for people and help ensure long-term economic and energy security for our country.”