UK Lifts Moratorium on Fracking to Secure Energy Supply

Britain’s new government officially lifted a ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for shale gas, which had been in place since 2019, after Prime Minister Truss made a commitment shortly after taking office earlier this month. The ban was put in place after the country’s upstream oil and gas regulator highlighted the difficulties in predicting the probability or magnitude of earthquakes linked to fracking operations.

The government’s decision to lift the moratorium comes amid mounting energy security concerns and soaring energy prices. Truss suggested earlier this month that previous administrations had not focused enough on securing energy supplies.

UK’s Business and Energy Secretary Rees-Mogg said it has become an urgency to strengthen energy security after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine Putin’s “weaponisation of energy”. “We will need to explore all avenues available to us through solar, wind, oil and gas production — so it’s right that we’ve lifted the pause to realise any potential sources of domestic gas,” he said.

Rees-Mogg also said limits on seismic activity could be reviewed. Currently, regulations require work to stop if an earthquake of 0.5 magnitude or above occurs. Rees-Mogg argued that the limit is too low, adding that a potential new threshold is being looked at.

UK shale gas firm Cuadrilla, whose work in 2018 was impacted by minor tremors, welcomed the government’s announcement. Lifting the moratorium “will help the shale industry unlock UK onshore natural gas in quantities sufficient to meet the UK’s needs for decades to come,” company CEO Egan said. It will also “help tackle spiraling gas prices”.

Estimates of UK shale gas resources vary. The British Geological Survey’s central projection for the Bowland basin in the north of England is 1,329 trillion cubic feet, with a range of 829 trillion-2,281 trillion cubic feet. But only 10% of any original resource in place is likely to be recoverable.

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