Government imposes moratorium on fracking

The government imposed on Saturday a moratorium on the process of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas, or fracking, in England. The decision was made following the publication of a report by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) which concluded that current technology was not able to accurately predict the probability or magnitude of earthquakes linked to fracking operations. The news comes after a series of incidents and disturbances near Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site in Lancashire.

The government also confirmed that it will not be taking forward proposed planning reforms for shale gas developments at this time. These proposals were consulted on in 2018 but will not be implemented now.

Oil and Gas Authority Director of Regulation Tom Wheeler said: ”Since the OGA suspended hydraulic fracturing at Preston New Road we have been considering whether the operator’s plans are still appropriate to manage the risk of induced seismicity. The OGA’s considerations have been informed both by the seismic events and by independent scientific analysis of data from the first Preston New Road well.

“Based on these, the OGA believes that further detailed geomechanical analysis would be needed before we could evaluate with confidence whether hydraulic fracturing could resume in the Fylde, or elsewhere, consistent with the government’s policy aims.”

Fracking already takes place across the world including in the US, Canada and Argentina. However, exploratory work to determine whether shale could be a new domestic energy source, delivering benefits for our economy and energy security, has now been paused – unless and until “compelling new evidence” is provided that it can be carried out safely here.

Business and energy secretary, Andrea Leadsom said: “Whilst acknowledging the huge potential of UK shale gas to provide a bridge to a zero carbon future, I’ve also always been clear that shale gas exploration must be carried out safely. In the UK, we have been led by the best available scientific evidence, and closely regulated by the Oil and Gas Authority, one of the best regulators in the world.

“After reviewing the OGA’s report into recent seismic activity at Preston New Road, it is clear that we cannot rule out future unacceptable impacts on the local community.”

Declining North Sea oil reserves have been a major contributing factor in the heightened interest in fracking over the last decade, with the UK government lifting its ban on hydraulic fracturing for shale gas or gas in December 2012.

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