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Welsh ministers propose to outlaw future fracking for shale gas

Words: Roger Milne
Fracking / iStock_000022131270

Welsh Government proposals to refuse support for any new licensing of petroleum extraction in Wales, including fracking for shale gas, have been published for consultation.

Welsh ministers will take over responsibility for licensing onshore petroleum extraction from the UK Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) in October because of the Wales Act 2017.

Petroleum Licences, issued over the past 30 years by the UK Government, give a developer the exclusive rights to explore for and develop oil or gas in a geographic area.

Known as Petroleum Exploration Development Licences (PEDLs) from 1996, there are 14 currently in Wales. However, the last PEDL licences in Wales were awarded in 2008.

A PEDL gives the licence holder exclusive rights to exploit petroleum, within the licenced area, subject to the requirement to obtain all other necessary regulatory consents applicable to drilling operations, which can include planning consent and environmental permitting.

The consultation document notes that there is no oil or gas extraction on a large industrial scale happening onshore anywhere in the UK at present.

However, the administration did consider the implications of the development of coalbed methane (CBM) production in Wales.

An assessment commissioned by the government highlighted that the most suitable areas were found in the South Wales Valleys, central Wrexham, and the Denbighshire coast. The least suitable areas were found in Pembrokeshire, outer parts of Wrexham, Flintshire, and inland parts of Denbighshire.

Ministers pointed out that there had been no recent exploratory drilling in Wales; planning applications were overwhelmingly CBM as opposed to shale gas, and potential developments slated for the early 2020s would only result in an estimated 11-13 CBM production boreholes.

“The evidence suggested that there is limited economic benefit to Wales from supporting petroleum extraction – many of the drilling jobs are highly mobile in nature and the economic benefits are transitory – nor are there immediate financial benefits to communities from petroleum extraction.

“We do not believe that the evidence, alongside the analysis, presents a compelling case that the benefits of petroleum extraction outweigh our commitment to sustainably manage our natural resources.

"Therefore, our future proposed policy for petroleum (oil or gas) extraction is [that] we will not undertake any new petroleum licensing in Wales, or support applications for hydraulic fracturing petroleum licence consents.”

Image credit | iStock