Green campaigners against unconventional gas warned developing the fossil fuel could draw investment away from the UK’s renewable industry.
A company exploring for controversial “shale gas” in the UK says it could drill hundreds of wells in Lancashire to tap into vast gas resources underground.
Cuadrilla Resources, whose exploration efforts near Blackpool had to be halted earlier in the year amid concerns they were causing tremors, said there were 200 trillion cubic feet of gas under the ground in the area.
A percentage of the gas could be recovered for use in the UK’s energy mix, providing up to 5,600 jobs, including 1,700 in the local area, at the peak of production, the company has suggested.
But campaigners against the unconventional source of gas warned developing the fossil fuel could draw investment away from the UK’s potentially huge renewable industry.
The gas is found in shale formed from deposits of mud, silt, clay and organic matter. It is extracted by drilling down into the ground and then by “fracking”, a process of hydraulic fracturing of the shale using high pressure liquid to release the gas.
It has proved controversial in the US, where shale gas is already being exploited on a large scale, because the drilling process involves chemicals, including cancer-causing compounds, which can pollute water supplies.
There are also claims that the gas itself can pollute drinking water, with footage of people able to set fire to the water coming out of their taps.
The problems have prompted campaigners to call for its exploitation in the UK to be banned, a suggestion ruled out earlier this year by a committee of MPs who found no evidence it would pose a risk to water supplies from underground aquifers.
Cuadrilla chief executive Mark Miller said: “When they are done right, someone driving by on a country road or walking their dog, it will be hard for them to see our sites as they will blend in with the Lancashire countryside.”
Mr Miller said the company was “pleasantly surprised” by findings of the exploration phase.