The Government is poised to give the go-ahead for resumption of the controversial ‘fracking’ technique of mining that caused earthquakes near Blackpool last year. It is understood that the Department of Energy and Climate Change is likely to allow exploration by Cuadrilla Resources in Lancashire to continue on condition that the company introduces new safety methods to ensure mining stops on signs of impending tremors.
The decision is likely to spark widespread protests among environmentalists who believe that the process can pollute ground water and allow methane, a greenhouse gas, to escape into the atmosphere.
It is understood that the Department of Energy and Climate Change is likely to allow exploration by Cuadrilla Resources in Lancashire to continue on condition that the company introduces new safety methods to ensure mining stops on signs of impending tremors.
Protest: Campaigners attached themselves to the Cuadrilla shale gas exploration site near Lancashire in October last year
Both miners and environmental groups that have been in touch with the Department recently have come away with a strong impression that drilling will be allowed to resume.
The Government has been keen to exploit reserves of shale gas because, if found in sufficient quantity, it would then give the nation greater energy security.
Following the tremors, Cuadrilla, where former BP boss Lord Browne is a non-executive director, was banned from ‘fracking’ in the area.
Chief executive Mark Miller has said Cuadrilla is ready to put in place a ‘traffic light’ system to prevent a repeat of the two small earthquakes that shook the area last year. A spokesman for the Department of Energy said that a decision on whether to allow fracking to resume was imminent.
For the past four months it has been investigating the incident and a report by Cuadrilla into the connection between unconventional drilling and earthquakes – a link that the company admits.
Fracking – or more correctly hydraulic fracturing – is the name given to the technique for extracting gas out of shale buried deep underground. A drill is sunk into the shale and then turned horizontal to penetrate the shale rock.
High pressure water, chemicals and sand are pumped down the shaft, which results in rocks fracturing and gas escaping to the surface up the same pipe. Part of the purpose of the exploration is to discover the size of shale gas reserves nationwide.
According to the US Department of Energy, Britain has enough shale gas to fuel the country for 56 years. However, the British Geological Survey says there is only enough shale gas to last 18 months.