Ministers are this week expected to offer up vast swathes of Britain for fracking in an attempt to lure energy companies to explore shale oil and gas reserves.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change is expected to launch the so-called “14th onshore licensing round”, which will invite companies to bid for the rights to explore in as-yet untouched parts of the country.
The move is expected to be hugely controversial because it could potentially result in fracking taking place across more than half of Britain. Industry sources said the plans could be announced at a press conference tomorrow.
The Government is a big proponent of fracking and last year revealed that it would “step up the search” for shale gas and oil.
Ministers said they would offer energy companies the chance for rights to drill across more than 37,000 square miles, stretching from central Scotland to the south coast.
Michael Fallon, the former energy minister, has previously described shale as “an exciting prospect, which could bring growth, jobs and energy security”.
A previous government-commissioned report said as many as 2,880 wells could be drilled in the new licence areas, generating up to a fifth of the country’s annual gas demand at peak and creating as many as 32,000 jobs.
However, the report warned that communities close to drilling sites could see a large increase in traffic. Residents could face as many as 51 lorry journeys each day for three years, the study said.