UK to push ahead with shale gas exploration

A report commissioned by the government said the ‘fracking’ process – where pressurised water and chemicals are pumped underground to open shale rocks and release trapped gas – could resume with tighter rules on seismic monitoring and drilling surveys.

One of the report’s authors, the British Geological Society’s Brian Baptie, said: “The risk of seismic activity associated with hydraulic fracking operations is small and the probability of damage is extremely small. We suggest fracking can continue under our recommendations.”

 Last year Cuadrilla Resources, the company at the forefront of UK exploration, had to halt its operations in Lancashire, northwest England, after fracking triggered small earthquakes.

 The report has been welcomed by British business trade associations. Rhian Kelly, director for business environment policy at the Confederation of British Industry, said: “The government has signalled that gas should play a big part in moving to a low-carbon economy, so it makes sense to explore new gas sources here, rather than increasingly depend on sources from elsewhere in the world. Provided safety standards are observed, shale gas could unlock significant new infrastructure investments, help meet our carbon reduction goals and create many new jobs around the UK.”

Tim Fox, head of energy at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: “The recommendations that any shale gas operations should be more closely monitored are welcome. UK and European environmental regulations are already some of the most stringent in the world and these proposed precautions are a good example of how to help mitigate the risk of any damage caused by seismic activity as a result of shale gas activity.”

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