In first for UK, government clears Cuadrilla to frack shale gas site

LONDON (Reuters) – Shale gas developer Cuadrilla on Tuesday became the first operator in Britain to receive final consent from the government to frack an onshore horizontal exploration well.

FILE PHOTO: An anti-fracking sign is seen outside Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road fracking site near Blackpool, Britain, 31 July, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Yates/File Photo

The government said it had granted approval for so-called hydraulic fracturing to take place at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site in northwest England.

“I have carefully considered Cuadrilla’s application and I am content that hydraulic fracturing consent should be granted in this instance,” Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry said in a statement.

Cuadrilla submitted its application for consent in May.

Britain’s Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth Claire Perry arrives In Downing Street in London, March 6, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Hydraulic fracturing consent was introduced in 2015 as an additional step to the government’s regulatory and permitting regime and ensures all necessary environmental, health and safety permits have been obtained.

Fracking involves perforating wells and fracturing rocks by injecting liquids, sands and chemicals to suck in oil and gas. It has transformed the U.S. energy industry but has not taken off across Europe, where some countries have banned it.

In Britain, there have been protests by environmentalists and local residents against fracking amid concerns it could contaminate underground water reservoirs and harm the environment above ground.

Cuadrilla welcomed the government’s decision.

“We now look forward to submitting a fracture consent application to (the government) for our second exploration well and moving on to fracture the shale rock and flow the natural gas which we believe will make a major contribution to reducing the UK’s gas imports and improving our environment and economy,” Cuadrilla Chief Executive Francis Egan said in a statement.

Reporting by Nina Chestney, editing by David Evans and Dale Hudson

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