Oil and gas in the UK is a national resource and we, the Department of Energy and Climate Change, have the responsibility of issuing licences to companies wishing to explore for oil or gas, including shale gas.
This is done from time to time in licensing rounds. However, the licences do not permit actual drilling or production operations, which always require planning permission; the licences merely allocate the oil and gas resource in a specific area to a particular company.
We now plan to conduct a new round of onshore oil and gas licensing (the 14th) in 2014. As in previous years, the licences will cover exploration for shale gas as well as conventional gas and oil. We have also published today, for consultation, a report that evaluates the potential impacts of shale gas production – more on this below.
Licenses in Britain
The map below shows (in blue) the areas of the UK where it is proposed that companies could apply to us for exclusive licences to explore for all types of oil and gas including shale.
It shows that a substantial area of Great Britain has already been licensed for oil and gas activities (see yellow areas). The blue areas show the areas under consideration for new licences as part of the 14th round. This does not mean, however, that there will necessarily be any oil or gas activity in any particular part of that area. Although the area in blue includes all parts of Great Britain which are thought to have any kind of potential for oil or gas exploration, not all parts are thought to have any potential for shale gas or oil. For example, the London area is included, although it is not thought to have any shale gas or oil present.
It is also important to note that licenses themselves do not give consent for drilling or any other operations. Companies will also need permission from landowner(s) and planning consent, which may require an environmental impact assessment; also Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales, or the Scottish Environment Protection Agency permits; Health and Safety Executive notification; and finally a consent from us at DECC.
The full series of permissions companies would need to conduct exploratory drilling were set out in full today in our regulatory roadmap, which aims to provide an overview of the process, highlighting key pieces of legislation and regulation, and identifying required actions and best practices at various stages.
For consultation: report on potential impacts
Our Environmental Report – open for consultation and part of the process of strategic environmental assessment, identifies, describes and evaluates the likely significant effects on the environment of our proposals; we are keen to get your views on it.
Following the consultation, we will issue a “Post-Adoption Statement” which will summarise how we intend to proceed in relation to further onshore licensing.
We are keen to explore the potential for shale gas in the UK, because it could bring major benefits in terms of growth, jobs and energy security. However, we must develop shale responsibly, both for local communities and for the environment. The steps we have outlined will help ensure this and enable a sustainable and successful industry for the long term.
The UK has safely regulated onshore oil and gas drilling for 80 years and we are confident that we will maintain this strong track record.
The consultation will be open until 28 March 2014.
And you can read more about shale gas in our factsheet on GOV.UK