Business secretary Andrea Leadsom announced on Saturday that earthquakes at Preston New Road, the UK’s only active fracking site, led the government to conclude “that we should put a moratorium on fracking in England with immediate effect”.
The moratorium will only be lifted if “compelling new evidence is provided” that fracking can be carried out safely, the government said. The announcement followed a report published by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) on Friday warning that the magnitude of earthquakes triggered by fracking is impossible to predict.
Cuadrilla, which operates the Preston New Road site, said yesterday that it would work with the OGA “to provide further detailed data… to address concerns so that the moratorium can be lifted”.
It said it was still committed to extracting gas from the Bowland shale formation, which covers much of northern England, saying that it “contains significant gas-in-place to meet the needs of the UK for many decades”.
“We agree with the government that natural gas will play an important role in providing energy to the UK and will continue to do so for many decades in the future,” the company said.
However, market experts were sceptical that shale gas would now ever be extracted in the UK.
“A child could have seen shale was a non-starter in the UK,” said Mark Lewis, head of climate change investment research at BNP Paribas, on account of the country’s high population density.
Green Party MEP and Lancashire County councillor Gina Dowding told ENDS the moratorium highlights “just how reckless the UK government was when it declared it was going ‘all out for shale’ five years ago”, saying that ministers should apologise for promoting the technology.
“Those of us who were opposing fracking company Cuadrilla in Lancashire are now proven not to have been scaremongering at all,” she said. “We were indeed on the right side of history highlighting the health and environmental risks, and above all, the need for local communities to be able to decide on planning applications.
“Cuadrilla should now understand that fracking is over in the UK,” Dowding added. “They should leave Lancashire and not seek to return under any circumstances.”
Read the OGA’s report here