Two-thirds of the UK’s land will be available for fracking companies to license, a government map published on Tuesday shows, with new areas opened up in the Midlands, Cumbria and Wales.
Ministers said major energy companies had expressed interest in new shale gas licences and up to 150 applications are expected, which could cover about 15% of the UK.
Almost £1bn of financial incentives and revenues could be injected into local communities that accept fracking, according to a new assessment of the impact of a largescale shale gas industry on the UK, published the same day.
The report, commissioned by the government, suggests that a major fracking effort would deliver about 25% of the UK’s annual gas needs in its peak years in the 2020s and provide up to 32,000 jobs, although as few as one-fifth of these could be local.
However, Keith Taylor, the Green party’s MEP for south-east England, said: “In reality, many people will be unwilling to accept air pollution, noisy trucks, gas flaring and potential water contamination in exchange for the government’s bribe.”
The assessment, required by law, was produced by consultants Amec and also warns that the billions of litres of polluted wastewater produced by a big shale gas industry “could place a significant burden on existing wastewater treatment capacity”. Fracking uses high pressure water and chemicals to fracture underground rock and release trapped gas.
“There is a huge amount of shale gas underneath us all and what is important for public confidence is to show the regulatory framework is robust,” said energy minister, Michael Fallon. He said Tuesday’s announcements were “stepping up the search for shale gas” but declined to say whether he would welcome fracking under his own house. The government also published a “roadmap” of existing regulations covering the sector, intended to “provide certainty to investors and local communities”.