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Half of Britain to be offered for shale gas drilling as fracking areas face 50 trucks passing each day

Ministers “stepping up the search for shale” with new exploration rights to be offered to fracking firms next summer

Fracking Map

Photo: PA

Published on The Telegraph website on Tuesday 17th December 2013
Emily Gosden
By , Energy Editor

 

Ministers will offer fracking companies rights to drill across more than 37,000 square miles of land – almost half of Britain – as they “step up the search for shale” gas and oil.

Under plans unveiled earlier areas from central Scotland down to the south coast of England will be opened up in a “licensing round” next summer.

Communities near fracking sites could see a huge increase in traffic, with HGV trucks coming and going to each site up to 51 times each day for several years, according to an independent assessment by consultants Amec.

Energy minister Michael Fallon said that shale was “an exciting prospect, which could bring growth, jobs and energy security”.

Fracking involved pumping water, sand and chemicals into the ground to extract pockets of gas trapped within rocks. Opponents fear disruption and environmental damage.

So far companies have rights to drill in 176 licences spanning a 7,300 square mile area of Britain. A licence alone does not allow companies to drill as they also need a series of planning and environmental permits.

Government officials say they do not expect companies will actually want to claim rights to most of the 37,000 square mile that are being offered under the new plans, which will be consulted on before the licensing round begins.

“It is not necessarily the case that there will be any oil or gas activity in the areas that are now being put out in the [licensing] round,” Mr Fallon said.

Most of the same area was offered up five years ago in the last licensing round but companies were not interested because at the time very little was known about Britain’s shale potential.

But shale gas has since transformed the energy landscape in the US and ministers hope it could do the same here.

Some of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies such as France’s Total – banned from fracking in France – now want to join the search for shale in the UK.

The Amec report looks at the potential effects if up to 150 new licences were issued.

It says this could lead to up to 32,000 new jobs and total gas production through the 2020s of about 8.6 trillion cubic feet – more than twice the amount Britain currently consumes each year.

The figures exclude production and jobs from the existing licences.

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