The United Kingdom is the largest producer of oil and gas in Europe. The Government considers the development of shale hydrocarbons as an opportunity. The first fracking well was drilled in 2011.
The United Kingdom is the second most populated country in Europe while only being the 9th largest. Its capital, London, is an important city and has an important place in the economic world. The UK includes England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This study concerns England and Wales only.
In the North Sea, the UK extracts oil and gas offshore and 60% of electricity produced is from thermal power stations. Coal supplies 17% of UK electricity and eight nuclear power stations generate 19% of electricity. Renewable energies supply only 12%.
General view of Cuadrilla hydraulic fracking drill site in Balcombe, Sussex
Shale Gas situation
The UK has large resources of shale gas in Lancashire and Yorkshire. In 2011 the first deep well was drilled and fracked but this activity caused earthquakes. Fracking was stopped by the authorities. After the seismic activity, the Government commissioned a study whose conclusions were reassuring.
The Government considers shale oil and gas as a national priority and important legislation in November 2015 eased the conditions to obtain licences. The power to award licences was granted to the Minister of Environment and new tax incentives were introduced. During the legislative change, the Government also divided the territory of England and Wales in 295 squares – called Ordnance Survey Blocks – and looked for expressions of interest for exploration. Finally, in December 2015, 159 blocks were formally offered to hydrocarbon companies.
Anti-fracking movement in UK is very strong
The local opposition against fracking is really strong in UK and communities contest the permits awarded by the Minister of Environment. The UK is a very densely populated country and lot of blocks cover villages, cities, farms, national parks and rivers.