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UK Official Overrules Local Council, Approves First-Ever Shale Drilling Plans

The government of the United Kingdom has overruled a local council in northwest England and will allow Cuadrilla Resources Ltd. to drill four unconventional wells, marking the first time hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has been approved in the UK.

According to reports, Sajid Javid, UK secretary of state for communities and local government, has approved Cuadrilla's application to drill up to four test wells at a site called Preston New Road. But he withheld permission to drill another four test wells at another site, Roseacre Wood, until the company could address concerns over traffic.

Shale gas has "the potential to power economic growth, support 64,000 jobs, and provide a new domestic energy source, making us less reliant on imports," Javid told the Financial Times.

In July 2015, the Lancashire County Council Development Control Committee denied Cuadrilla an application to drill test wells at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood (see Shale Daily, July 6, 2015). Cuadrilla subsequently filed an appeal to the Secretary of State's office. Javid, a Conservative from Bromsgrove and a former managing director at Deutsche Bank, was appointed to the post last July by Prime Minister Theresa May.

"I'm very pleased," Cuadrilla CEO Francis Egan said in a video interview with The Telegraph. "I think it's a very important milestone for Cuadrilla [and] for shale gas in the UK, but particularly because it's the opportunity to demonstrate that gas underneath the ground here, we can extract and supply into the UK instead of importing the stuff.

"I understand that some people are concerned, and obviously there has been a lot written about this and there's a lot on the internet that could give people cause for concern. But if you look at what we're actually doing and the amount of monitoring that we're going to do -- we'll monitor air quality, noise, traffic, ecology, lighting -- the data will be there to reassure people, and to demonstrate that if they do have fears, that those are misplaced. It will be safe."

Cuadrilla moved its headquarters to Lancashire last March. The company has been interested in drilling in the Borough of Fylde for more than two years (see Shale DailyFeb. 7, 2014).

In 2013, the British Geological Survey said there was a 50% chance the Bowland-Hodder Shale holds 1,329 Tcf of natural gas. It also released high and low estimates for the play, at 2,281 Tcf and 822 Tcf, respectively (see Shale DailyJune 28, 2013).

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