Fracking companies have called on Ms Truss to go further than ending the moratorium on shale gas extraction, or fracking, by scrapping key restrictions that they claim hold the industry back. The firms have urged the Government to relax laws surrounding earthquakes, allowing for tremors above 0.5 on the Richter scale, and for companies to be able to bypass local objections. Fracking was banned in 2019 was banned over concerns it can trigger seismic events (earthquakes).
Last week, Ms Truss announced in the House of Commons that she would lift the ban on fracking so the UK can slash reliance on expensive gas imports and boost its own homegrown energy supply to slash bills.
However, fracking industry leaders have warned that the Government would need to introduce new deregulatory measures in order to kickstart the industry.
Speaking to the Independent, fracking firms said that the Government should speed up planning permission by allowing ministers, instead of local authorities, to approve projects as “nationally significant infrastructure”.
Doing so could be seen as a major U-turn on Ms Truss’ campaign promise, having previously vowed that shale gas extraction should only take place where there is support from local communities.
The industry demanded that the Government tore up rules that required energy companies to stop drilling if tremors of 0.5 or more were felt, claiming that at such levels, tremors were often naturally occurring and imperceptible. In fact, the Royal Society says tremors up to magnitude 2 are not likely to be felt above ground.
Charles McAllister, director of UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG) said: “If the government just lifted the moratorium and didn’t offer comprehensive policy support, it would be very difficult to make an investment case.
“If the regulations on seismicity applied to shale gas development were applied to other sectors, such as the construction, quarrying or geothermal industry, they would not be able to operate in the UK.”
James Verdon, a senior lecturer at the school of earth sciences at the University of Bristol, noted that geothermal energy projects in Cornwall have generated similar-sized earth tremors as fracking, however, they have not faced the same level of public concern.
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This comes as a leaked report from the British Geological Society, seen by the Guardian, admitted that scientists still found it difficult to predict fracking-induced earthquakes and that their magnitude “remains a scientific challenge”.
The report added that the limited number of fracking sites in the UK “makes it impossible to determine with statistical significance” the rates of “induced seismicity”, which means that it is “difficult to make a valid comparison” with other countries.
While the fracking industry has complained about red tape, figures from the National Grid show that by 2037, fracking’s contribution to Britain’s energy needs could equal that produced by the North Sea, and then move on to eclipse it in the following year.
The analysis found that shale gas production would start slowly in 2026, before accelerating and becoming one of the UK’s main energy supplies.
However, Fracking has faced many critics, with even the current Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng previously opposing a return to the practice.
When Russia first invaded Ukraine, Mr Kwarteng, the Business and Energy Secretary tweeted: “Additional North Sea production won’t materially affect the wholesale price (certainly not anytime soon).
“The wholesale price of gas has quadrupled in UK and Europe. Additional UK production won’t materially affect the wholesale market price. This includes fracking – UK producers won’t sell shale gas to UK consumers below the market price. They’re not charities.”
While fracking could boost energy security through increased domestic gas, a study in the US published last month found that young children living near fracking wells at birth are up to three times more likely to later develop leukaemia.