The UK government on Thursday lifted England’s moratorium on fracking, a controversial method to dig for fossil fuels, to boost energy output after key supplier Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Prime Minister Liz Truss had flagged the move two weeks ago, shortly after taking office, in a vast energy package tackling fallout from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
“To bolster the UK’s energy security, the UK government has today lifted the moratorium on shale gas production in England," the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said in a statement.
And it confirmed support for a new oil and gas licensing round next month for 100 new licences.
Britain had in 2019 called a halt to fracking — or hydraulic fracturing which is used to release hydrocarbons locked deep underground — due to fears it could trigger earthquakes.
“In light of Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and weaponisation of energy, strengthening our energy security is an absolute priority," added business and energy secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg.
“As the Prime Minister said, we are going to ensure the UK is a net energy exporter by 2040.
“To get there we will need to explore all avenues available to us through solar, wind, oil and gas production — so it’s right that we’ve lifted the pause to realise any potential sources of domestic gas."
The BEIS added that future fracking applications will be considered “where there is local support".
Fracking is carried out by blasting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals underground to release shale oil and gas.
However, environmentalists argue that the process contaminates water supplies, hurts wildlife, causes earthquakes and contributes to global climate change.
The BEIS added Thursday that developers will need licences, permissions and consents in place, including regulatory approvals, before they can commence operations.
And it also published the British Geological Survey’s scientific review into shale gas extraction, which was commissioned earlier this year.
“The review recognised that we have limited current understanding of UK geology and onshore shale resources, and the challenges of modelling geological activity in relatively complex geology sometimes found in UK shale locations," the statement noted.
The government argued that this limited understanding should be a reason to drill more wells to gather more evidence and data.