More than a quarter of St Helens borough land could be used for fracking drill sites, according to a new government report.
Energy giant Dart Energy holds licences covering 28 per cent of St Helens South and Whiston and 14 per cent of St Helens North.
And fellow firms Alkane, iGas and Biogas hold small proportions of land that could be used for shale gas exploration if planning applications are approved.
A council spokesman confirmed to the Reporter that they had not received any applications in relation to the controversial process.
A statement read: “If an application is received, it will be dealt with under the appropriate legislative and planning guidelines.
“We have not received any enquiries from fracking companies.”
The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) briefing document shows areas where onshore Petroleum Exploration and Development block licences have been granted.
But any drilling site for fracking would require individual planning permission.
The report also reveals that a single test well - in 2011 prices - costs in the region of an eye-watering £10.5m.
Hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking, involves firing water and chemicals at underground shale rock formations to release gas reserves.
Opponents claim it can contaminate water supplies and cause earth tremors.
The Government recently announced incentives for local authorities which will allow them to claim 100 per cent of the business rates collected from shale gas schemes, instead of the usual 50 per cent.
In St Helens South and Whiston, licences for iGas cover three per cent, BioGas seven per cent and Alkane 10 per cent.
And in St Helens North, Alkane and iGas hold licences for one per cent and 1.6 per cent respectively. The majority of the land covered by the licences in St Helens are part of the Dart Energy L-shaped area covering land between Ashton, Golborne and Newton-le-Willows.
None of the licences granted by the DECC distinguish between shale gas or oil in the briefing report.
All drilling operations are also subject to approval form the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency.
The report concludes that while the rapid development of shale gas in North America has transformed the world gas-market outlook, consensus was that shale gas will not be a game-changer here in the UK.
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