Officials in the UK have paved the way for further gas and oil exploration. In the latest move, the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has agreed to 93 new onshore licences, meaning that firms will be able to explore blocks of the UK for unconventional gas and shale oil. This could lead to a rise in fracking, with Andy Samuel, the chief executive of the organisation, saying: “This round enables a significant amount of the UK’s shale prospects to be taken forward to be explored and tested.”
Of the new licence permissions the OGA has granted, almost three-quarters of the 159 blocks relate to unconventional exploration. Although there are many campaigners against fracking, energy minister Andrea Leadsom said that the industry-backed body, Task Force for Shale Gas, has found that this system of gas and oil extraction can take place safely as long as the right standards are used. Speaking further about the importance to issue blocks, she said: “The licences offered today move us a step closer − driving forwards this industry which will provide secure, home-grown energy to hard-working families and businesses for decades to come.”
Unsurprisingly, there is strong opposition from environmental groups, which say that fracking could destroy Britain’s countryside and put important conservation areas at risk; in addition, many environmentalists say the news seems at odds with recent reports that Britain has just backed a new global policy to drive down greenhouse gases over the coming years.
Many of the licenses for exploration are for areas within national parks, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) said, and in ‘areas of outstanding natural beauty’. Shale companies have been granted exploration blocks in the Peak District, Exmoor and the North York Moors national parks, while areas of outstanding natural beauty that could be at risk of fracking are southern England’s Cranborne Chase, Yorkshire’s Howardian Hills, Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland and the Lincolnshire Wolds in Dorset.
For the oil and gas industry, the new exploration blocks will come as good news. Crude oil barrel prices continue to fall, making it harder for many companies to continue operations. New technology, cost-cutting initiatives and efficiency drives are top priorities for many energy firms. With the newly granted permissions for onshore exploration in the UK, gas and oil organisation may now be able to find new sources for extraction.
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