Fracking to resume across the UK

Part of a fracking site in Lancashire
Part of a fracking site in Lancashire Photo: ITV News

A controversial shale gas exploration method called 'fracking' will be allowed to resume in the UK under new controls, the Government announced today.

Fracking was suspended across the country last year after it was found to have caused two small earthquakes in Lancashire.

Science Editor Lawrence McGinty reports:

Energy Secretary Ed Davey said fracking will resume under "strict regulatory measures" and controls that he said would aim to reduce the risk of seismic activity. He said:

Fracking must be safe and the public must be reassured it is safe.

He added that although shale gas exploration remains in its early stages, it offers a promising new energy resource that could help the move towards a low carbon economy, whilst reducing the UK's reliance on gas from overseas sources.

Read More: Will fracking lower your fuel bills?

Gas company Cuadrilla hopes to secure the necessary planning permission and permits to resume fracking in the coming months and they hope to resume work on their site near Blackpool by the middle of next year.

There could be 150 billion cubic metres of shale gas recoverable in the UK, according to a report commissioned by the Department of Energy and Climate Change in 2010.

ITV News Correspondent Geraint Vincent went to Blackpool to speak to Caudrilla and find out what how fracking works:

The highly complicated process to extract the shale gas has prompted environmentalists to warn that resuming the process could pollute water supplies, cause tremors and lead to damaging development of drilling well sites across the countryside.

There are also concerns that a continued reliance on gas would prevent the UK meeting targets to cut emissions and tackle climate change.

Friends of the Earth said it is clear that communities up and down the country do not want the exploration to go ahead.

The Treasury has already signalled its support for the industry, proposing a number of tax incentives and unveiling their plans for a gas generation strategy. A spokeswoman for 10 Downing Street said:

There is great potential for prices to come down and that is something that is attractive about finding another source of energy.

However the Government's own climate advisers warned this may not be the case, as a continued reliance on gas instead of a shift towards low-carbon power such as wind, would push up consumer bills in the long run.

The Committee on Climate Change's chief executive, David Kennedy, said it was not a "game changer" in the UK as the amount of shale gas potentially available is still a small share of gas demand.

Cuadrilla is currently the only company which has started exploration of shale gas resources in the UK. It says reserves in Lancashire could supply a quarter of the UK gas demand in the future.

Today's decision also paves the way for potential exploration of shale reserves elsewhere in the UK.