The British government on Thursday lifted England’s moratorium on fracking, saying the measure is aimed at bolstering energy security as Russia cuts gas supplies amid tensions over Ukraine’s invasion.
“To strengthen the UK’s energy security, the UK government today lifted the moratorium on shale gas production in England,” the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said in a statement.
The UK had stopped fracking or hydraulic fracking in 2019 for fear the procedure could cause earthquakes.
Thursday’s announcement follows directions from new Prime Minister Liz Truss two weeks ago that her government would again allow fracking operations to address the growing energy shortages caused by Russia’s actions.
What has the British government said?
The BEIS not only announced an end to the fracking moratorium but also confirmed that it supported the granting of 100 new oil and gas exploration licenses next month.
It said future fracking applications will be considered “where there is local support”.
It added that developers need licenses, consents and permissions, including regulatory approvals, before they can begin their activities.
UK Secretary of State for Affairs and Energy, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said strengthening energy security was a top priority “in light of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s Illegal Invasion of Ukraine and Weapons of Energy.”
Rees-Mogg, a fossil fuel advocate and climate skeptic, said the UK aims to become a “net energy exporter” by 2040.
“To get there, we need to explore all available avenues through solar, wind, oil and gas production – so it’s good that we’ve lifted the pause to realize potential sources of domestic gas,” he said.
As for the earthquake hazard, Rees-Mogg told parliament: “We need to rethink seismic limits to ensure shale gas extraction can be done in an effective and efficient manner”, adding that: “We know shale gas is safe. is in the United States.”
Rees-Mogg has previously spoken out in favor of extracting “every last drop” of North Sea oil and gas.
What is fracking?
Fracking is a procedure to extract shale oil and gas from the subsurface by blasting rock formations with a mixture of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure to create fractures through which petroleum and gas can flow.
Many environmentalists argue that the method pollutes water supplies, harms fauna and flora, can cause earthquakes and promote global warming.
Experts also say the resumption of fracking will not help cut energy costs or increase energy security in the near term, as operations will take years to get underway. In addition, there is no guarantee that gas can be extracted on a meaningful scale.
The largest quake caused by fracking in Britain occurred at a site in Blackpool in northern England in 2011. That quake had a magnitude of 2.3.
tj/kb (TAUT, TAUT)