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BoJo Opens The Door To Fracking Revival—Will He Buckle To Green Extremists?

fracking worker

The company spearheading Britain’s stalled fracking industry has been thrown a lifeline by the Government in the clearest sign yet that ministers are rethinking their stance on shale gas.

Cuadrilla, the energy producer, said it had been given a stay of execution after it received orders for three testing wells in Lancashire to be filled with concrete by June 30 following an effective ban on fracking in the UK. [bold, links added]

The company said it would temporarily plug the wells in northwest England and consider its options before a new deadline of June 2023.

The decision by the North Sea Transition Authority, the regulator for the oil and gas industry, comes just days before Boris Johnson and Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, are expected to set out the UK’s new energy supply strategy.

The Prime Minister has come under renewed pressure to reverse a 2019 moratorium on fracking as European leaders scramble to wean the Continent off Russian gas.

Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla, said a decision to start fracking would help to reduce and “potentially halt” expensive gas imports from abroad, including from Russia.

He said: “I would like to thank the Prime Minister and the Business Secretary for seeing the light and realizing – just in time – how absurd it would have been to force us to pour concrete down Britain’s only two viable shale gas wells in the middle of an energy crisis.

“But this suspension will have a cul-de-sac ending unless we now reverse the moratorium preventing us from using the wells (and others like them) to get shale gas out of the ground and flowing into British households.”

The North Sea Transition Authority said that “if no credible re-use plans” are in place by the deadline of June next year it “expects to reimpose decommissioning requirements”.

Cuadrilla had applied for the extension on March 28 amid signs from the Government that it was open to reconsidering its stance on the practice as energy security rises up the agenda in the wake of the Kremlin’s invasion.

Fracking involves blasting a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals underground to release trapped gas.

Estimates suggest there are 1,329 trillion cubic feet of shale trapped in rocks from Scotland to Sussex.

However, the practice was placed under a moratorium in England in 2019 before any commercial gas was produced following repeated protests from local communities and green campaigners after causing earth tremors.

Mr. Johnson is expected to order a review of the evidence leading up to the ban as part of the UK’s energy supply strategy expected next week.

He is believed to have asked ministers in early March to look again at whether fracking can help diversify the UK’s energy supplies, as the Ukraine war threatens to worsen a global gas shortage.

Britain gets little gas directly from Russia but only produces less than 40pc of its own gas, with the rest imported from Norway, Qatar, and elsewhere.

Advocates of fracking claim that Britain could use the technique to access vast reserves of shale gas, with just 10pc of resources available enough to make the UK self-sufficient for 50 years.

Fracking is widely used onshore in the US where it has helped revolutionize the oil and gas industry, but skeptics argue replicating that in the UK would be difficult as the geology is different and the UK is more crowded.

The Climate Change Committee, the Government’s advisers, has also warned that any production would need to be done in line with the UK’s net-zero ambitions.

A spokesman for the Business Department said: “Cuadrilla applied for an extension and the independent regulator approved the company’s application.

“The pause on the development of shale gas in England remains in place.”

Read more at Daily Telegraph

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