The bidding process for companies to get licences to extract shale oil and gas – using the controversial process of fracking – is open today.
Although the licences provide the “first step” to start drilling, it does not give absolute agreement to drill, the Government said.
Fracking companies will also have to provide a drilling application which requires planning permission as well as permits from the Environment Agency and a sign-off from the Health and Safety Executive.
Around half the UK is open for licencing, including parts of National Parks. However, applications there will only be accepted in “exceptional circumstances and in the public interest”. The same rules apply for the Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and World Heritage Sites.
The Government believes fracking could make a major contribution to the nation’s future energy needs and is determined to see it go ahead despite huge protests across the country.
Business and Energy Minister Matthew Hancock said: “Unlocking shale gas in Britain has the potential to provide us with greater energy security, jobs and growth. We must act carefully, minimising risks, to explore how much of our large resource can be recovered to give the UK a new home-grown source of energy.
“As one of the cleanest fossil fuels, shale gas can be a key part of the UK’s answer to climate change and a bridge to a much greener future.”
Earlier this year the Government also announced a number of incentives to help kick-start the industry, including tax breaks, payments of £100,000 per site as well as a 1% share of revenue to local communities.