Fracking: plans to drill 68 new shale gas wells unveiled
Fracking firms plan to drill up to 68 shale gas wells in England in the next five years, after being handed new rights to explore across an estimated 4,500 square miles of land. At least 14 of the new drilling sites – in parts of Yorkshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire – are expected to be fracked under the plans, as ministers attempt to “get shale gas moving”.
The areas earmarked for shale exploration include parts of the North York Moors and Peak District national parks as well as several Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and part of Chancellor George Osborne’s Tatton constituency.
Fracking has not taken place in Britain since a temporary ban on the controversial practice was lifted in 2012, with energy firms facing repeated setbacks from strong local opposition.
But Andrea Leadsom, the energy minister, said the Government wanted to “press ahead and get exploration underway so that we can determine how much shale gas there is and how much we can use”.
The Government yesterday awarded rights to energy companies to explore for oil and gas across about 5,000 square miles of England, in addition to 1,000 square miles they awarded in the summer.
Of the 6,000 square miles total, roughly 75 per cent of the licences relate to shale exploration, the Government’s Oil & Gas Authority said, with the remainder being earmarked for other types of drilling.
The OGA also divulged for the first time the exploratory work that companies pledged to undertake within the next five years in order to secure the access rights.
These include ‘firm commitments’ to drill 33 new shale wells – 14 of which are to be fracked – and the potential to drill a further 35 new shale wells.
The biggest winner of new shale licences was petrochemicals giant Ineos, owned by billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, which has committed to drill 20 wells and frack 13 of them, and to potentially drill a further five wells.
One of Ineos’s potential wells would be in an area that falls entirely within the North York Moors National Park.
Fracking rigs have been banned on the surface in national parks but MPs on Wednesday approved plans that could see Ineos station a rig in its neighbouring licence just outside the park, and then drill horizontally beneath the park.
Patrick Erwin, commercial director of Ineos shale, said its plans would not “initially” involve any work in the national park. However if testing elsewhere suggested gas could be extracted “in a sensitive way” from the rocks beneath the park, it would be “in the national interest” to do so, he said.
Emma Marrington, rural policy campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “With a fracking licence issued for the heart of the North York Moors, the national park could suffer huge environmental, visual and infrastructure intrusion on its perimeter. This makes a mockery of the Government’s manifesto pledge to ensure this remains ‘the most beautiful country in the world’.”
Fonte: The Telegraph