In a landmark ruling, the government has announced that horizontal fracking plans in Lancashire can go ahead.
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has overturned the decision to refuse planning permission for fracking of shale gas, allowing the company behind the project, Cuadrilla, to commence drilling in the county as soon as April 2017.
Lancashire County Council voted against allowing drilling for gas at the two sides in Fylde in June last year, despite more than 18,000 objections. It cited noise pollution and visual implications as their reasons for refusal but this decision was appealed by Cuadrilla a month later.
Using the horizontal technique is expected to be more productive than the conventional vertical drilling method and drilling companies believe that trillions of cubic feet of shale gas could be recoverable from beneath parts of the UK.
Mr Javid decided to allow a fracking appeal at one site, called Preston New Road, but deferred a decision on an application to frack at the second site, Roseacre Wood, which would see another four wells drilled into and fracked. This decision was said to allow Cuadrilla and other parties to make further cases and representations on road traffic issues.
Following the announcement, Claire Jakobsson, Head of Energy and Climate Policy at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, said: “Until the UK actually has some production sites in operation we will know very little about the commercial viability of this energy source, so today’s approval could be a significant step forward for the UK’s future in shale.
“Following today’s decision, we could see production start within the next eighteen months. It’s hoped that this development will provide vital information on the longer-term prospects for a UK shale industry. Approval of the second application, currently under consideration, would help to build this picture further and we hope the green light will be given for this too in due course.
“Shale gas has the potential to deliver significant economic benefits to the UK, from more affordable energy to security of supply, through to jobs in the energy and manufacturing sectors. It is right that we explore this opportunity and understand the potential for shale gas as part of the UK’s energy mix.”