Coastal Oil and Gas has been granted permission by the Welsh government to carry out exploratory drilling for shale gas in southern Wales.
The Welsh government’s ruling comes after a local council rejected a bid by the company based on environmental concerns.
Local residents, politicians and environmental groups had objected to drilling plans by Coastal Oil and Gas mainly due to fears the work would contaminate groundwater with chemicals, which are injected into shale formations to extract trapped gas.
Shale gas reserves in Britain could be the equivalent of nearly two years of its gas consumption, the first government-commissioned surveys showed, but not enough research has been carried out to make comprehensive forecasts. The drilling in Wales could enhance the data.
Shale gas exploration last year raised safety concerns in Britain when hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, work near Blackpool caused minor tremors nearby, and the government temporarily suspended fracking activity in Britain. It is expected to announce soon whether it will lift the suspension after two separate expert reports showed there was little danger of earthquakes in Britain from fracking.
The Vale of Glamorgan Council rejected the bid by Coastal Oil and Gas, and the developer appealed. The Welsh government then ruled that it saw no grounds for the work not to take place as long as certain conditions are met, such as at what times of the day and year the drilling takes place.
"The appeal is allowed and planning permission is granted to drill and test the in-situ lower limestone and associated strata for the presence of gas," Inspector Emyr Jones said in a report to the government.
Coastal Oil and Gas has to restrict drilling to the hours of 0800-1800 and months of October-March and keep noise and vibration levels below certain thresholds, the inspector said.
Coastal Oil and Gas could not be reached for comment.