One of the announcements made on the last day of term was the winners of the bids for licences to explore for onshore oil and gas. These licences officially called Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences are awarded by the Oil and Gas Authority. The licences grant the exclusive right to the holder to explore the area covered by the licence to see whether they are any useable deposits of oil or gas. One of the new licences covers our area.
It is not very likely they will discover oil but we know from previous research that there might be useable reserves of shale gas which can be extracted by means of hydraulic fracturing. The licences granted last week do not allow for any operations to begin because an operator would still need to seek a whole host of other permissions and consents before any work could start. Planning permission, an environmental permit from the Environment Agency, drilling consent from the Oil and Gas Authority and t he whole process would be under the scrutiny of the Health and Safety Executive. Onshore extraction has been taking place safely for over 50 years in the United Kingdom and as has been proved with nuclear energy our regulatory processes are strict enough to be as sure as we reasonably can be that no harm will be done to humans or our environment.
I am in favour of the new opportunities shale gas provides. A secure supply of energy for years to come. We will not be reliant on other countries often in unstable parts of the world. It should be cheaper and it will certainly be a source of new jobs.
I know there will be those who oppose the use of shale gas but I am satisfied that the benefits of using shale gas outweigh any disadvantages. I believe the risks have been properly evaluated and we have enough experienced regulators in place to ensure the safety of the operations.