Oliver Duggan

Make up your mind on shale gas, fracking chief tells government

The head of the company seeking to exploit shale gas reserves in Lancashire today pleaded with the government to make up its mind about the future of the unconventional energy source.

Giving evidence to the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee this morning, Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla, said his company was desperate to get the go-ahead to explore how much shale gas was available in the area around Blackpool. Sounding a little exasperated, he told the committee:

‘We’ll give you the data as soon as you let us start. We know the geology is good, we know the gas is there, and we know it’s a mile thick. In fact, we haven’t even reached the bottom. The geology is good, but we need to establish flow rates. I could sit here and guesstimate reserves all day long, but we need to get some data, and that’s what we’re asking for approval to do. if the country doesn’t want the data, tell us. If the government say no, we will have no choice but to walk away. We hope the government will make a decision soon.’

The problem is partly that tensions remain in the fractious energy department over fracking, even though the will exists among senior Conservatives. Last week’s Autumn Statement included the Gas Generation Strategy, which included plans for a regulatory regime for shale gas exploitation. But Egan wasn’t entirely cheered by this. He said:

‘I think in that the GGS acknowledges that gas will have a role it’s helpful, but Cuadrilla is not in the business of working out the energy strategy of the country. We’re here to say that we have found gas that can be developed safely and sensibly, and if the government thinks there’s a market for gas, we’ll be able to provide it.

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