The government has halted fracking in England with immediate effect. It has also warned that it would not support future shale gas projects. The decision was taken after a scientific report produced by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) concluded that it was impossible to rule out the possibility that people living near fracking sites might suffer 'unacceptable' consequences.
No future fracking projects will be allowed by the government until compelling new evidence is provided that fracking could be safe.
Preston New Road in Lancashire, the UK's only active fracking site has not been in operation since the end of August, after work there by its operator Cuadrilla breached the government's safety limits on earthquakes on multiple occasions.
Business and Energy Secretary Angel Leadsom 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." She went on to say that this would continue "until and unless" extraction by fracking could be proved safe.
Whilst this is a moratorium, not an outright ban on fracking, it is unlikely that the industry will be able to do anything to reduce the possibility of earthquakes and tremors stemming from fracking operations.
To carry out fracking, liquid is pumped deep underground at high pressure to fracture brittle shale rock and release the oil or gas trapped within it. Recent research from Nottingham University and the British Geological Survey has suggested that the UK's 'frackable' rocks contain 5-6 years' supply of gas. This contradicts a 2013 assessment from the British Geological Survey, which estimated that there could be up to 50 years' supply of gas at current levels of demand within the Bowland Shale of northern England.
Under devolved powers, bans or moratoria on fracking are already in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. With an election next month, Labour has pledged an outright ban on fracking in England if elected.