The government will no longer give its consent to new fracturing projects without “convincing evidence”.
The British government announced on Saturday that it will suspend hydraulic fracturing to extract shale gas from the subsoil due to the risk of seismic shocks.
The Minister for Enterprise and Energy, Andrea Leadsom, explained that she had taken this decision following a report from the sector regulator, The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), which studied recent seismic activity near a hydraulic fracturing site at Preston New Road in Lancashire (northwest England).
“After reviewing the OGA report (…), it is clear that we cannot rule out further unacceptable consequences for the local population,” Leadsom said in a statement.
“For this reason, I concluded that we should introduce a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in England with immediate effect,” she added.
The government explained that it would not consent to new hydraulic fracturing projects “unless convincing new evidence is provided.
The hydraulic fracturing process consists of creating underground cracks and infiltrating a mixture of water, sand and chemicals to allow the extraction of gas or oil captured in the rock.
The technique is controversial because of its environmental impact and has provoked strong opposition from the populations concerned and environmental activists.
Greenpeace welcomed the government’s announcement, which came at the beginning of the campaign for the December 12 parliamentary elections, praising “the great merit of grassroots activists across the country”.
“The government’s big gamble on hydraulic fracturing is a fiasco,” said Rebecca Newsom, programme manager at the NGO, quoted in a statement.
3 wells open out of 20 expected
The United Kingdom had supported this experiment in the hope of reducing its dependence on gas, imported mainly from Norway and Qatar.
The Conservative government had expected in 2016 that 20 wells would be open by mid-2020.
However, to date, only three wells have been drilled, without any shale gas exploitation having started and without the authorities knowing how much could be extracted in the long term, a report from the National Audit Office (NAO), the body responsible for controlling public expenditure, recently pointed out.
The Executive Director of the environmental NGO Friends of the Earth, Craig Bennett, welcomed the moratorium as a “huge victory for people and the environment”.
“For nearly a decade, local populations across the country have led David’s fight against Goliath against this powerful industry,” he said, hoping that a law would make the prohibition of hydraulic fracturing permanent.