Green light for shale gas exploration
Vast swathes of English countryside have been earmarked for potential shale gas development (and fracking). This week as part of the latest licensing round the Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) announced which energy companies have been successful in obtaining onshore Petroleum and Development Licences (PEDLs).
Some 159 onshore blocks were up for grabs, three quarters of which involve proposed unconventional oil or gas exploration. None of the blocks are in Wales or Scotland.
Before a PEDL licensee can move beyond the exploration phase, a number of further permissions and consents are required for operations like drilling, fracking and production. These include planning permission and permits from the Environment Agency.
The offer of PEDLs follows a detailed environmental assessment of the proposed blocks under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 which was subject to public consultation.
In a separate but related move MPs have voted to approve new regulations which allow drilling 1,200 metres below national parks, World Heritage sites, the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
The drill rigs involved will have to be positioned outside the boundaries of the designated protected areas.