The Government has announced a moratorium on fracking in England but has not ruled out future shale gas operations.

The Government has announced it will end its support for fracking in England following the release of an Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) report which concludes it is not possible to “accurately predict the probability of tremors associated with fracking”.

Business and Energy Secretary Andrea Leadsom, a strong supporter of the shale gas industry, acknowledged there are safety issues that need to be addressed. Announcing the decision, she said:

“After reviewing the OGA’s report into recent seismic activity at Preston New Road, it is clear that we cannot rule out future unacceptable impacts on the local community. For this reason, I have concluded that we should put a moratorium on fracking in England with immediate effect.”

Operations at Preston New Road, Lancashire, have been suspended since a magnitude 2.9 event was recorded there in August 2019. The OGA says it is unable to say with confidence that further hydraulic fracturing would not cause disturbance to those living and working nearby, but says further research is still needed.

Oil and Gas Authority Director of Regulation Tom Wheeler said: “Since the OGA suspended hydraulic fracturing at Preston New Road we have been considering whether the operator’s plans are still appropriate to manage the risk of induced seismicity. Based on these, the OGA believes that further detailed geomechanical analysis would be needed before we could evaluate with confidence whether hydraulic fracturing could resume in the Fylde, or elsewhere.”

Speaking to the BBC, Leadsom hinted the ban may be temporary - imposed "until and unless" extraction is proved safe.

The Government also confirmed it will not implement proposed planning reforms designed to speed up the process for future shale gas developments.

The announcement follows earlier analysis from Heriot-Watt university that the geology of the whole of the UK is unlikely to be suitable for fracking, due to fracturing of sedimentary basins containing large shale resources.

Last reviewed 6 November 2019