Ministers clear way for shale gas dash

Areas that have been part of the British Geological Society's survey of Shale Gas, including Wigan
Areas that have been part of the British Geological Society's survey of Shale Gas, including Wigan

WIGAN borough moved a step closer to becoming part of the UK’s new energy strategy with the extraction of shale gas through fracking.

A geological survey has revealed that significantly more reserves of the valuable resource are in areas spanning the north of England.

And if 10 per cent of the gas can be extracted from the reserves, it would be enough to supply the country for 25 years, officials claim.

Companies already hold licences that allow them rights to start extracting in areas of the North West, including areas in the north and south of the borough.

Local authorities would still have to approve planning permission for fracking to begin but the government has paved the way with its new plans.

Energy minister Michael Fallon last week announced measures to encourage gas extraction including tax breaks for companies and financial incentives for communities.

The controversial process of fracking - blasting water and chemicals at shale rock formations at high pressure - has raised environmental concerns, especially on the Fylde Coast where earth tremors were felt in 2010.

Opponents warn the process can cause earthquakes, affect house prices and contaminate the water supply.

Mr Fallon said: “We have put in place, since the seismic activity near Blackpool, a much more robust regulatory framework with licences, planning permission, health and safety permits, environment agency permits, regulations for water waste disposal and finally they need consent from me.

“Then there is going to be proper monitoring to show that they have met the requirements and monitoring on any fracking they carry out.”

The survey by the British Geological Society (BGS) estimates that the amount of shale gas in the Bowland-Hodder shale study area is 1,300 trillion cubic feet.

This covers an area stretching from the northern Wales-England border to the North Yorkshire Moors - including Wigan borough.

Under the new incentive plans, communities will receive £100,000 for each well where fracking takes place and ongoing revenue if the extraction continues.

The government is hoping to recreate the success of fracking in the US which boosted their economy.