The Government has dismissed newspaper reports about shale gas exploration possibly affecting more than 60% of the UK as “nonsense”.
In a story, The Independent claimed that based on DECC’s maps it had obtained “more than 32,000 square miles – or 64% of the countryside could potentially be exploited for shale gas and is being considered for exploration licences”. The report said it includes “vast swathes” of the South of England, the North-west and North-east and the Central belt in Scotland.
Fracking is a process which involves pumping high pressured water into tight layers of rock deep underground to extract gas.
But DECC said the story was unfounded. A spokesman said: “There is a big difference between the amount of shale gas that might exist and what can be technically and commercially extracted. It is too early to assess the potential for shale gas but the suggestion more than 60% of the UK countryside could be exploited is nonsense. We have commissioned the British Geological Survey to do an assessment of the UK’s shale gas resources, which will report its findings next year.”
The report was seized upon by Greenpeace, John Sauven Executive Director said: “Two thirds of England, including large swathes of countryside, is now under active consideration for a risky, polluting, expensive form of fossil fuel extraction. If George Osborne stands up on Wednesday and paints shale gas as a silver bullet for the British economy, or for bill payers, he will be misleading the public. The potential for shale gas to bring down bills is overhyped, while experts agree local opposition is a serious threat to the industry’s viability.”
The procedure has come under heavy criticism from environmentalists, with protestors in London at the weekend (pictured) laying a mock pipeline in Grosvenor Square from the Canadian High Commission to the US Embassy. They later marched to Parliament Square, where they erected an imitation fracking rig.
The story comes ahead of Chancellor George Osbrone’s Autumn Statement on Wednesday, where he is expected to announce increased support for the fracking industry.