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    UK to end English fracking moratorium


New PM Liz Truss plans to revive pursuit of England's shale gas potential. (Updated to reflect PM's announcement, comment from Cuadrilla Resources)

by: Callum Cyrus

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Natural Gas & LNG News, Europe, Security of Supply, Political, Supply/Demand, News By Country, United Kingdom

UK to end English fracking moratorium

UK prime minister Liz Truss plans to end England's moratorium on the use of hydraulic fracturing, paving the way for development of England's shale gas potential.

Truss announced the ban would be lifted in a speech to the UK's House of Commons on September 8, as part of plans to boost energy supply and contain surging consumer prices, after regulator OFGEM announced an 80% hike in the national energy price cap in late-August.

The price cap itself is to be reduced to £2,500 for the next two years.

England is thought to possess a potential 37.6 trillion m3 of in-place gas in the Bowland Shale formation in northern England, but only two demonstration wells have been completed to date.

Truss's predecessor Boris Johnson imposed a ban on the use of hydraulic fracturing in a pre-election move in late 2019. 

The UK's two horizontal onshore wells are situated at Cuadrilla Resources' development site in Lancashire, and were expected to close earlier this year, until regulators suspended the closure order and said they should instead be temporarily plugged.

In a press statement sent to NGW following the prime minister's announcement, Cuadrilla CEO Francis Egan said: "I am very pleased that the new government has acted quickly to lift the moratorium. This is an entirely sensible decision and recognises that maximising the UK's domestic energy supply is vital if we are going to overcome the ongoing energy crisis and reduce the risk of it recurring in the future.

"Any rational analysis of UK energy supply, including those put forward by the [UK] climate change committee, recognise that our transition to net zero will require the continued use of gas until 2050."

Boris Johnson's administration said April 5 it had asked the British Geological Survey to run a scientific review of England's shale gas industry.

Government ministers believe the safe extraction of shale could reduce the UK's reliance on imported oil and gas at a time when Russia's invasion of Ukraine has sent wholesale gas prices soaring, though critics say fracking causes seismic tremors and creates risks for local communities.

The BGS was expected to report back earlier this month, with a study outlining improved horizontal drilling techniques and putting the seismicity risk in context compared to other forms of underground energy production, such as geothermal and coal mining.

Part of the BGS study was carried out in partnership with University of Nottingham, and revealed the UK's shale potential could be less than previously anticipated, equating to around 10 years of gas supply at current demand levels, Ground Engineering reported August 22.