Shale gas is unlikely to be developed in Britain unless strict limits on earthquakes caused by fracking are relaxed, the company with the biggest exploration rights has warned.
Ineos, the petrochemicals giant controlled by Jim Ratcliffe, an outspoken advocate of fracking, has amassed rights to explore across vast stretches of northern England.
Ministers have enthusiastically backed the development of shale gas, but have also set strict limits on the earth tremors caused by fracking, the process used to extract the gas.
The government’s rules force companies to cease fracking for 18 hours after causing a tremor measuring more than 0.5 on the Richter scale. Over the past two months Cuadrilla, the only company to frack in the UK so far, has been forced to halt its operations in Lancashire six times after tremors above the threshold.
Tom Crotty, an Ineos director, said: “It would be difficult to see the industry develop successfully with a 0.5 operating limit.”
The intervention by Britain’s largest private company will add weight to calls by Cuadrilla for ministers to relax the limits if they want their ambitions for a shale industry to be realised.