The new proposals would simplify procedures which are costly time-consuming and disproportionate for new methods of underground drilling. Oil, gas and deep geothermal companies will be able to explore their potential, and will in return provide a voluntary community payment for access.
The proposals are:
- Underground right of access for shale gas and deep geothermal operations only below 300m (nearly 1000ft);
- A voluntary community payment of £20,000 per lateral well; and
- A clear notification system to alert local people.
“Britain needs more home-grown energy. Shale development will bring jobs and business opportunities,” said UK Business and Energy Minister Michael Fallon. “We are keen for shale and geothermal exploration to go ahead while protecting residents through the robust regulation that is in place.”
“These proposals allow shale and geothermal development while offering a fair deal for communities in return for underground access at depths so deep they will have no negative impact on landowners.”
A company looking to develop shale or geothermal will still need to obtain all the necessary permissions. There are controls in place to regulate seismicity, environmental impacts and planning impacts and there are numerous opportunities for local communities to engage ahead of any development.
Many other industries already access underground land beneath people’s homes in order to lay cables and build infrastructure such as water pipes and tunnels. These are much closer to the surface than the access concerned here. For example the deepest Tube station is around 32m below ground - drilling for gas, oil and deep geothermal energy is much deeper and these proposals would only apply from 300 meters down. Any hydraulic fracturing would only occur at far greater depths of 1.5 kilometer (around 5000ft) or more.
This consultation will be open for 12 weeks. Once feedback has been considered, the UK government will announce next steps.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change has also published a further report by the British Geological Survey on shale gas resources in Great Britain. The new report assesses the resources of the Jurassic shales of the Weald (PDF).
The new Weald report follows a report published last year on the Bowland-Hodder shales of northern England. These reports estimate the oil and gas resources of the formations studied (the oil or gas in the ground) - these are not reserves. For the Weald area, the BGS concludes there is unlikely to be any shale gas potential, but a reasonable central estimate for shale oil is 4.4bn barrels in the ground- again these are not reserves.
A further DECC/BGS report, on the Midland Valley of Scotland, is in preparation.