UK gives go-ahead to second-ever shale gas permit

Go-ahead for Cuadrilla to carry out hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, at a site in northwest England

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Britain’s government approved its second-ever shale gas fracking permit on Thursday, overruling a local authority decision and boosting the country’s position as Europe's most promising shale gas exploration ground.

Britain’s Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid gave the go-ahead for shale gas company Cuadrilla to carry out hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, at a site in northwest England.

The approval is only Britain's second since a moratorium on fracking was lifted in 2012 after Third Energy received the green light for a project in northern England in May.

Britain is estimated to have substantial amounts of shale gas trapped in underground rocks and the government wants to exploit it to help offset declining North Sea oil and gas output. It said the shale gas industry could create 64,000 jobs and help economic growth.

Britain, which will start procedures next year to leave the European Union, currently imports about half of its gas needs and that could rise to as much as 93 percent by 2040 without shale gas, according to some calculations, as offshore production wanes.

Despite government support, progress has been slow due to regulatory hurdles and public protests.

Environmental groups are concerned shale gas fracking could contaminate groundwater and that extracting fossil fuels is incompatible with the country’s commitment to fight climate change.

“The economics of shale extraction in the UK are still highly uncertain. The costs of UK shale will not be clearer until a significant amount of exploratory drilling takes place,” said Jim Watson, director of the UK Energy Research Centre.

Thursday’s approval means Cuadrilla can now start fracking at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire to test how much shale gas it can retrieve.

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