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Fracking Debate to Intensify

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Mike Kelly fracking, Contract, Permanent...

Following last Thursday’s controversial decision by Communities and Local Government Secretary, Sajid Javid to overturn the council’s ruling and grant planning permission, the debate on fracking is set to intensify. 

Among those who welcomed Mr Javid’s decision was Stuart Fegan, National Officer of the GMB Union who said: “The go-ahead will reduce the gas we will need to import, as the UK will need to use gas for years to come to heat our homes and generate electricity on the 60 days each year when there is no wind.”

The decision comes just a week after the first shipment of US shale gas arrived in the UK at Ineos’s Grangemouth refinery in Scotland for use in chemicals manufacturing. Ineos, in addition to Cuadrilla, is pressing for UK shale.

Others in favour of UK fracking include IGas, who only this week have had a decision on an application for test drilling at a former cold war missile site deferred until November following a legal submission from Friends of the Earth.

The energy industry is cautious about UK shale, with executive’s at large oil & gas groups remaining sceptical about whether the scale of opportunity can outweigh the obstacles.

Sceptics continue to outline the differences between fracking in North America versus the British Isles.

The US boom was ignited by a more relaxed regulatory regime, extensive government support and large volumes of equity investment. None of these exists in the UK, with current laws on mineral rights giving little incentive for local communities to embrace fracking.

Unlike in the US; where landowners own the resources beneath their property, in the UK anything deeper than 50 metres is owned by the Crown.

Another deterrent is the high costs of operating in the UK; especially at a time when the global market is awash with cheap gas.

The wide availability of this cheap gas raises the question of which is more economical; the import of cheap shale gas from the US or the commitment to large-scale fracking in the UK?