process of extracting shale gas using a combination of directional drilling and
hydraulic fracturing (pumping water, sand and chemicals deep into the ground at
high pressure to create fractures) has been in the news a lot recently.
Concerns have been
raised regarding the environmental implications of widespread fracking such as earthquakes,
water consumption, water poisoning and greenhouse gas emissions. Reports (from
Durham University, The Energy Collective, Department of Energy and Climate
Change and The Royal Society and Academy of Engineering) suggest that the
public should not be concerned and any environmental impact from fracking is
limited. Shale gas extraction is therefore permitted in the UK and it appears
that David Cameron is keen for the UK to ‘get behind fracking’.
support for fracking was evidenced in a recent HM Treasury paper which included
measures to help to get communities behind fracking by approving a scheme to
reward communities for their part in the UK’s energy sector. Under the scheme developers
would pay £100,000 in community benefits at the exploration phase, per well
site, and 1% of revenues to communities that host fracking wells.
Despite the measures
to encourage exploration of shale gas, there is currently only one developer
(Cuadrilla) that has fracked a well in the UK. Fracking is highly regulated and cannot occur
without the proposed developer obtaining a planning permission and several
permits and licenses. The legal requirements that a developer must satisfy
before it can begin fracking will vary depending on the site and the scale of
the operation. Examples of the
permissions/licenses/consents that are may need to be obtained are:
from any landowners whose land would be affected by the exploration (failure to
obtain the consent of the relevant landowners can amount to trespass).
Exploration and Development Licence.
nine different Environmental Permits.
Licence (if the company intends to obtain water for fracking by extracting it directly
from surface and ground water).
authorisation from the coal authority.
consent from the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
Resources Act 1991 notification to the Environment Agency.
Further consents or
extensions to the permits are required if a developer then wants to develop and
produce shale gas.
Fracking is a
controversial process - it remains to be seen whether in time, and with the new
Government incentives, developers will see a potential in fracking or whether
the level of regulation and public opposition to fracking will put off developers
from exploring this potential new energy source.
For more information on
fracking please follow the links below:-