A new regulatory roadmap for the development of onshore hydrocarbon resources has been released by Government

Fracking roadmap released by government

The government has stepped up its support for shale gas, sparking a fresh row with environmental groups over fracking.

A report drawn up for the government by engineering giant Amec has set out the potential effects of shale oil and gas production including the possibility of creating between 16,000 and 32,000 jobs and giving almost £1bn to local communities if large-scale production goes ahead.

In response ministers have published a "regulatory roadmap" for shale gas setting out permits developers need before drilling, saying it clarified the "robust processes" that operators need to comply with to get a licence.

But Greenpeace accused the government of wanting to open two-thirds of England up to fracking, creating enough waste water to fill 40,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, while villages could experience up to 51 truck movements a day.

Energy minister Michael Fallon said: "There could be large amounts of shale gas available in the UK, but we won't know for sure the scale of this prize until further exploration takes place. Today marks the next step in unlocking the potential of shale gas in our energy mix.

"It is an exciting prospect, which could bring growth, jobs and energy security. But we must develop shale responsibly, both for local communities and for the environment, with robust regulation in place."

Consultations will be held in the coming months, and a new licensing round to allow companies to explore for shale gas will be launched in the summer, with Fallon forecasting a high degree of interest from companies, with between 50 and 150 licences issued.

Amec's strategic environmental assessment identified the potential for increased traffic and water demand to be "significant" in particular localities and the report said there could be between 14 and 51 vehicle movements to a fracking site each day over a 32 to 145-week period.

"This could have an adverse impact on traffic congestion, noise or air quality, depending on existing roads, traffic and air quality," said the report.

Annual water use of shale gas exploration could be up to nine million cubic metres, around 18 per cent of mains water currently supplied to energy, water and waste firms, said the report.

Fallon said traffic volumes would be a "key consideration" in the planning process for shale gas permits, but he cited the growth of shale gas production in the USA, which was having an "enormous impact" on household energy bills.

"It has the potential to have an impact here. It can reduce our dependency on liquid natural gas. We face the prospect of having to import 70 per cent of our gas by 2030 if we have not found any shale by then."

But Greenpeace energy campaigner Anna Jones slammed the government for its support of the controversial fracking process.

She said: "Michael Fallon is desperate to put a positive spin on this report, but what it actually shows is that the government wants to open two-thirds of England up to fracking, with all the associated risks.

"Enough waste water to fill 40,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools could be created, and tiny villages could experience up to 50 truck movements per day. Fallon has also ignored the report's lower jobs estimate, which is just 2,500.

"There's no public mandate for this industrialisation of the English countryside and for digging up new forms of fossil fuels. With even the fracking companies admitting UK shale won't bring down bills, and the community sweeteners being described as ‘crumbs off the table’ by MPs in affected areas, you can understand why opposition is growing across the country. The government has a fight on its hands."

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