UK looks to boost fracking with new land access rules
There has been a lot of local opposition to shale gas test wells
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The UK government has proposed new rules regarding rights to access land in a bid to speed up the introduction of fracking.
It proposes that shale oil and gas companies are granted access to land below 300m from the surface.
It also suggests firms pay £20,000 per well to those living above the land.
The consultation comes as a new report by the British Geological Survey (BGS) estimates there are 4.4bn barrels of oil in shale rocks in southern England.
The BGS estimates there are between 2.2 billion and 8.6 billion barrels of shale oil in the Weald Basin – that covers areas including Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey and Kent – but says there is “no significant gas resource”.
These figures represent the total amount of oil in the rocks, only some of which can be accessed.
“It is not known what percentage of the oil present in the shale could be commercially extracted,” the survey said.
Announcing the government proposals, Energy Minister Michael Fallon said: “Britain needs more home-grown energy.
“Shale development will bring jobs and business opportunities.
“We are keen for shale and geothermal exploration to go ahead while protecting residents through the robust regulation that is in place.
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“These proposals allow shale and geothermal development while offering a fair deal for communities in return for underground access at depths so deep they will have no negative impact on landowners.”
The new proposals do not affect the existing system for gaining access rights to land on the surface.
The government also proposed a new notification system to ensure local communities are well informed about any shale developments in their area.
The £20,000 would be an additional payment on top of the £100,000 per site already announced, and is specifically designed for those living above horizontal pipes under ground. Shale exploration companies have already committed to giving 1% of revenues from any successful wells to local communities.
But the government has not gone far enough in its proposals for compensating local residents, according to Sir Merrick Cockell, chairman of the Local Government Association.
“Given the significant tax breaks being proposed to drive forward the development of shale gas and the likely returns, payments to communities should be more in line with those across the rest of the world and be set at between 5%-10% of revenues,” he said.