Fracking review ordered as Tories consider ‘all energy sources’ amid war in Ukraine
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has asked the British Geological Survey to reassess the safety of shale gas extraction, which has been banned since 2019
Image: AFP via Getty Images)
The government has ordered a fresh review of fracking as ministers consider ‘all possible domestic energy sources’ in the wake of the crisis sparked by the war in Ukraine
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said he had asked the British Geological Survey to reassess the safety of shale gas extraction, which was banned in 2019.
He said the moratorium will remain in place “unless the latest scientific evidence demonstrates that shale gas extraction is safe, sustainable and causes minimal disruption to those who live and work nearby.”
It comes after the oil and gas regulator lifted an order to seal the UK’s only shale gas wells by the end of June.
Fracking company Cuadrilla had been ordered to permanently seal its wells in Lancashire within months, but have now been granted a one-year reprieve.
Speculation is mounting that Boris Johnson could drop the fracking ban as he draws up plans to wean the UK off dependence on Russian oil and gas.
The long-dragged Energy Security Strategy is expected to be released on Thursday after several delays.
Fracking involves extracting gas from rocks and breaking them up with high pressure water and chemicals.
A moratorium was imposed on the controversial process in November 2019 after experts said it was not possible to accurately predict the likelihood or magnitude of earthquakes linked to the process.
The 2019 Tory manifesto promised: “We will not support fracking unless the science categorically shows it can be done safely.”
Announcing the review, Mr Kwarteng said: “The fact remains that hydraulic fracturing in England would require years of exploration and development before commercial quantities of gas could be produced for the market, and would certainly have no effect on short-term prices.
“However, there will still be continued demand for oil and gas over the next few decades as we transition to cheap renewable energy and new nuclear power.
“In light of Putin’s criminal invasion Ukraine, it is absolutely right that we explore all possible national energy sources.
“However, unless the latest scientific evidence demonstrates that shale gas extraction is safe, sustainable and causes minimal disruption to those who live and work nearby, the pause in England will remain in place.”
He requested that the report be submitted before the end of June.
Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Danny Gross said the idea that fracking could help cut bills was “pure fantasy”.
“We don’t need a review to know that fracking is not the answer to our energy needs,” he said.
“The idea that extracting shale gas will significantly reduce energy bills or improve energy security is pure fantasy.
“Hydraulic fracturing is deeply unpopular with communities facing the prospect of shale gas extraction. They stopped fracking once and if necessary they will stop it again.
“Energy efficiency and developing the UK’s vast renewable energy potential is the best way to tackle the energy crisis and reduce soaring fuel bills – and this must be at the center of the next review. government energy.”