French energy giant Total is preparing to deliver a major boost to Britain’s search for shale gas by investing close to $50m (£30m) in exploration in the East Midlands.
The deal, expected to be announced on Monday, will see Total take a stake of about 40pc in licences in Lincolnshire, sources told The Daily Telegraph.
Total will be the first international oil and gas major to throw its weight behind Britain’s nascent shale gas industry, in a move that will be hailed by ministers as a huge vote of confidence in its potential.
Ministers hope that shale gas, extracted through the controversial process of fracking, could provide an important new source of energy for the country as North Sea resources dwindle.
Britain is believed to have vast shale gas resources but very little drilling has been done to test how much gas can actually be extracted.