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This debate pack has been complied ahead of the debate on Shale gas on Tuesday 30 June 2015 at 09:30am.

The Member in charge of the debate is Kevin Hollinrake MP. Debate packs are produced quickly after the announcement of parliamentary business. They are intended to provide a summary or overview of the issue being debated and identify relevant briefings and useful documents, including press and parliamentary material. More detailed briefing can be prepared for Members on request to the Library.

In the UK, drilling for shale gas is at only the exploratory phase.  But the rapid development of shale gas resources in North America has transformed the world gas-market outlook. 

The consensus seems to be that shale gas will not be a ‘game changer’ in the UK as in the US.  There is, for example, less land available to drill on and landowners do not own the rights to hydrocarbons beneath their land.  However, in June 2013 Centrica acquired a 25% stake in Cuadrilla’s exploration licence in Lancashire and the Government and British Geological Survey published raised estimates of the shale gas resource in Northern England.  The Government is also consulting on legislation to introduce tax incentives for shale gas exploration, and has announced community financial benefits. 

Existing onshore petroleum exploration and development licences, which are not specific to shale gas, are therefore more likely now to be explored for their shale potential. 

Shale gas is extracted from solid rock using a process called hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’.  The Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering have reviewed the risks associated with fracking.  They concluded that the health, safety and environmental risks can be managed effectively in the UK, by implementing and enforcing best operational practice.  However, they made several recommendations including calling for more research on the carbon footprint of shale gas extraction. 

A report on this was published by DECC in September 2013, in which shale gas emissions were said to be similar to those of conventional gas and lower than those of coal and LNG, leading the Secretary of State to describe shale gas as a ‘bridge’ to a low-carbon future. 

The Queen’s speech in 2014 confirmed Government plans to streamline the underground access regime and make it easier for companies to drill for shale gas. The Infrastructure Bill has been amended to provide this. It also provides a number of new ‘safeguards’.

There are no commercial shale gas operations in the UK though, at the time of printing, Lancashire County Council were in the process of considering one application for the site, Little Plumpton. Planning Officers have already recommended that permission at the site is granted.

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