Britain plans fracking rule change as report shows huge shale oil reserves

May 26, 2014

Britain plans to ease rules on accessing shale oil and gas, including drilling without landowners' permission, a move that coincides with a government report suggesting billions of barrels of shale oil may lie underneath southern England.

As the country's North Sea reserves dwindle, hopes are that shale oil and gas will take its place and reduce dependence on imported fuel. The report from the British Geological Survey cites reserves of as many as 8.57 billion barrels of oil, with a central estimate of 4.4 billion.

Britain has extracted about 45 billion barrels of North Sea oil since the 1970s but output has been falling for a decade. In the U.S. the massive expansion of shale gas extraction has driven down energy prices and cut dependence on imports. "Britain needs more home-grown energy. Shale development will bring jobs and business opportunities," Energy Minister Michael Fallon said in a statement on Friday. But fracking - drilling and pumping chemicals, sand and water into rocks at high pressure - has triggered tremors and countries including France and Bulgaria have banned it.

Lobby group Greenpeace says fracking causes serious environmental risks, especially to fresh water. Protests in Britain have involved marches and attempts to disrupt oil and gas companies' work. Opposition flared last year in the village of Balcombe, in southern England.

Copyright, Daily Times, 2014.