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John Kemp: Overcoming The Barriers To Shale Gas In Britain

John Kemp, Reuters

Britain’s complicated planning and permitting regime is the biggest barrier to the development of onshore shale gas, according to a report from the Institute of Directors (IOD).

Ten different licences from four different public agencies, involving two separate public consultations, must be obtained before a single exploratory well can be drilled and hydraulically fractured, according to the IOD report “Getting shale gas working” published on Wednesday.

“We do not question the need for the industry to obtain the necessary environmental permits, conduct the necessary environmental impact assessments and install the necessary seismic monitoring equipment,” IOD concedes, but warns the current process “can seem a little cumbersome”.

“In our view, the planning and permitting regime for shale exploration, as currently constituted, presents a major barrier to the development of shale gas in the United Kingdom.”

Overall, however, the IOD presents an upbeat assessment about the industry’s ability to surmount the obstacles to developing a substantial onshore shale industry in a small, densely populated island with a famously self-contradictory approach to construction and local development.


The IOD is a business lobbying organisation that has expressed strong support for shale gas and often campaigns against what it sees as excessive government regulations, so the report’s conclusions are not entirely surprising.

The most interesting part of the report is the careful assessment of the various suggested barriers to shale development in chapter 5.

The report assesses barriers in five major areas: infrastructure and equipment; skills and the supply chain; finance and tax; regulation; and reputation.

It concludes that gas transportation and gathering pipelines, water supply and the availability of drilling and pressure pumping equipment are unlikely to pose serious obstacles to large-scale exploitation of Britain’s shale formations.

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