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UK tells shale players to step up and apply for licences

The UK government has urged prospective shale-gas developers to come forward and apply for drilling licences

UK energy minister Michael Fallon, who was speaking at the first All Party Parliamentary Group for Unconventional Gas & Oil (APPG) meeting on 15 May, said the UK already had the right regulation to encourage shale-gas development. "We announced fracking (hydraulic fracturing) could resume with robust regulation last December and there is nothing now stopping licensees from bringing on new drilling plans,"Fallon said. "It is up to licensees to come forward with plans to explore the shale potential, engaging with local communities and gaining the necessary planning permissions and permits."

The APPG  is a UK parliamentary discussion group, made up of members of parliament, as well as representatives from trade bodies, consumer groups and academic institutions. It aims to look into the impact of unconventional oil and gas development in the UK.

More than 330 licences have been issued both conventional and unconventional onshore oil and gas development in the UK. The government added that there are 39 companies with an interest in one or more licences. The government hopes to launch the UK's 14th onshore licensing round next year.

The UK imposed a moratorium on fracking in May 2011, but lifted the ban last year. The moratorium was put in place after Cuadrilla Resources' drilling operations were blamed for causing two tremors near the city of Blackpool, northern England.

However, the government has yet to provide regulatory clarity for shale-gas development. It said it will produce guidance on technical planning, mainly related to health, safety and environmental protection, for shale-gas development by July 2013.

In a report published at the end of April, the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee (ECCSC) urged DECC to move quickly to clarify the regulatory regime.

At an APPG meeting on 15 May, Fallon said the UK has the right regulation in place for shale-gas development to boost the country's energy security, investment prospects and jobs. But he added shale-gas development must be done in a way that benefits local communities.

Anti-fracking activists are not convinced shale gas developments would benefit communities. Greenpeace said in a statement that the government was "pandering to climate-sceptic backbenchers... and ignoring the very real concerns of communities across England".

The organisation added that the government "should brace itself for a fight-back" from local communities opposed to fracking on environmental grounds.

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