Although the current UK government is bending over backward to facilitate shale gas fracking, there are still many hurdles that energy companies will have to cross if they are even to recover any gas according to Caroline Almond at Natural Law Review:
“Despite strong UK Government backing in relation to fracking, there remains a long list of permits and licences required by any company wishing to carry out a fracking operation in the UK. To make matters more difficult, these permits and licences are issued by a number of different regulators. Required consents may include a Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence issued by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), a coal licence from the Coal Authority, borehole consents from the Department of Health, planning permissions from the Local Authority, groundwater investigation licences, abstraction licences and environmental permits from the Environment Agency, and a Protected Species Licence from Natural England. This is often in addition to struggling to obtain the necessary access rights from landowners in the vicinity of the wells.”
Almond sees the various permissions as an obstacle to fracking, but notes that attempts to recover shale gas commercially have so far failed in Europe, and that nobody is currently sure whether fracking would be commercially viable:
“Any new permissions to drill will help to reveal whether the UK shale deposits will yield any shale gas goldmines, but to figure out whether there is potential, companies must potentially drill as many as 50-100 wells which requires significant input.”
This raises the question of whether energy companies are going to make the necessary investment at a time when the US shale industry faces bankruptcy, and energy companies are walking away from proven gas reserves in the North Sea.