Fracking company Cuadrilla has announced plans to explore for shale gas in two new locations in Lancashire.
The company said it would apply for planning permission to drill, hydraulically fracture and test the flow of gas from up to four wells on each of the sites in Fylde to explore the full potential of shale gas resources there.
Separate applications will also be made to install two seismic arrays that would be used to monitor the hydraulic fracturing process, but the firm also pledged an "extensive" programme of public consultation, adding that it will give up to £100,000 to the local community for each well drilled.
Francis Egan, Cuadrilla's chief executive, said: "We've been working hard to assess our site options and have undertaken extensive technical and geological analysis. As a result of this work, we have decided to focus on just two sites at this time.
"This will allow us to reduce the potential impact on the local area during exploration while still gathering the important information we need to determine how much gas could be recovered. We're committed to being a good neighbour and to talking with the community at every stage of the process."
Cuadrilla said it had decided not to apply for permission to carry out hydraulic fracturing at another site in the area – Grange Hill – adding the existing well will be used as the base for a seismic monitor to complement the seismic arrays that would be installed around the proposed new sites.
It is believed to be the first time a shale gas explorer has applied for planning permission for fracking since the lifting in December 2012 of an 18-month ban imposed after Cuadrilla caused two earth tremors while fracking in Lancashire in 2011.
Friends of the Earth's north west campaigner, Helen Rimmer said: "These plans will be met by stiff opposition from local people rightly concerned about having the UK's first attempted multiple-well fracking operation under their feet.
"Cuadrilla claims to be a good neighbour, but it still hasn't cleared up the mess from the botched fracking operation that caused earth tremors only a couple of miles from one of the proposed sites.
"Despite David Cameron's gung-ho approach, opposition to shale gas is rising and will grow further as more communities are faced with the fracking threat. Fracking isn't the answer to our energy problems. Experts say it will do little to tackle climate change and even Cuadrilla has said it won't cut energy bills.”
The firm believes Lancashire's Bowland basin could have the potential to become a leading shale gas resource. The new sites are at Roseacre Wood, close to the village of Roseacre, and Preston New Road, west of Little Plumpton.
North West Energy Task Force spokesman Rob Green said: "Shale exploration in the North West is a real opportunity for business growth. Utilising the area's natural resources and strong engineering traditions will create much needed jobs and investment.”
John Kersey, chairman of the North West Institute of Directors, said: "Shale gas has great potential to create new jobs, generate economic growth and boost tax revenues for our region's public services. Opponents should know that by blocking shale's development that they are putting thousands of North West jobs and investment at risk.”