Energy reserves search continues

FRACKING: A worker at one of Cuadrilla's sites
FRACKING: A worker at one of Cuadrilla's sites
Share this article

Areas of St Helens could be offered up to energy companies as part of plans to exploit shale gas reserves through fracking.

A recent government commissioned report found that more than half of Britain could be used for exploration as ministers “step up the search” for energy reserves.

The report - produced by engineering consultancy firm, Amec - said communities near to drilling sites could face increased traffic but environmental impacts would be “manageable.”

Dart Energy already has rights to an L-shaped area between Ashton, Golborne and Newton-le-Willows.

Energy minister Michael Fallon said community concerns about the impacts of hydraulic fracturing will be dealt with at local level.

He said: “We have a robust system of regulations and, provided companies have gone through due process, the map shows there is a huge amount of shale gas. What’s important for public confidence is to show the system is robust.”

A British Geological Survey report last year revealed large areas of the north of England - including Merseyside and Greater Manchester - lie above vast amounts of shale gas that could supply the UK for decades.

Fracking - or hydraulic fracturing - involves chemicals and water being blasted into shale rock formations to release the valuable natural resource.

Concerns have been voiced that the process can cause earth tremors and contaminate water supplies because of the amount of liquid used in the process.

St Helens Wildlife Trust urged the giant energy firms to come clean in October on how the process could impact on local wildlife.

Chief executive Anne Selby said: “We will be pressing the government and the three companies hard on these issues and will expect a clear response on how they will handle these.

“As a Wildlife Trust, we are here to protect nature, but our purpose also includes sustainability and adapting to climate change.”

The Amec report, commissioned by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, said 2,880 wells could be drilled across the UK, creating between 16,000 to 32,000 jobs.

Any proposed drilling sites would be subject to planning permission from local authorities.