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UK Government Moves to Relax Onshore Unconventional Planning Laws

The UK government is proposing to relax some of the planning laws that apply to onshore unconventional oil and gas development.

Greg Clark, who is secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, has proposed a series of actions to support unconventional gas extraction.

“Further development of onshore gas resources has the potential to deliver substantial economic benefits to the UK economy and for local communities, where supplies are located by creating thousands of new jobs directly in extraction, local support services, and the rest of the supply chain,” Clark said.

“We are setting out a series of actions...to support the development of shale gas extraction.”

Several measures to be implemented would facilitate more timely decisions on exploration planning applications in England, he said.

Clark also confirmed that an unconventional environmental regulator is to be installed this summer. In addition, the secretary wants to work with industry to see how community benefits could be improved.

“This package of measures delivers on our manifesto promise to support shale, and it will ensure exploration happens in the most environmentally responsible way while making it easier for companies and local communities to work together,” said Energy Minister Claire Perry.

Unconventional gas exploration has the potential to reduce energy prices, she noted.

The UK government in 2016 overruled a local council in northwest England to allow Cuadrilla Resources Ltd. to drill four unconventional wells, marking the first time hydraulic fracturing (fracking) had been approved in the country.

Cuadrilla CEO Francis Egan applauded Clark’s latest action.

"We welcome the measures the government has introduced on making the planning process faster and fairer and providing additional resources to help local authorities, Egan said. "Our permission to drill and test just four shale gas exploratory wells in Lancashire was granted after a lengthy and costly three-year process. These timelines must improve if the country is to benefit from its own, much needed, indigenous source of gas."

Ineos Shale called the new planning processes “a step in the right direction.”

The UK Onshore Oil and Gas organization’s Ken Cronin said the country “needs a diverse supply of energy, which protects and secures UK jobs and UK taxes.”

GMB, otherwise known as the General Municipal Boilermakers, which is the UK energy union, also welcomed the government’s commitment to unconventional gas exploration.

“It is right to utilize our domestic gas resources to the maximum extent and exploring further the potential for onshore gas production from shale rock formations in the UK, where it is economically efficient, and where environment impacts are robustly regulated,” GMB stated.

The ministerial statement “confirmed the government’s commitment to exploring the potential of shale gas,” said GMB National Officer Stuart Fegan.

"Shale gas production should be permitted, alongside the development of the UK's renewable and nuclear capacity, benefiting the security of our energy, the economy and the environment,” Fegan said. "If, as it looks likely, shale exploration is going to happen, GMB will work with the industry and apply pressure to ensure the Industry is as safe as possible.”

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