The Infrastructure Act 2015 has been passed at a time when hydraulic fracturing for shale oil and gas in the UK has been under intense pressure. Plummeting oil and gas prices, controversial applications from Cuadrilla at Plumpton in Lancashire, the Frack Free Balcombe legal challenge and fracking moratorium announcements in Wales and Scotland have all played their part. In the meantime the outcome of the 14th Onshore Licensing Round remains at large and concerns continue regarding onshore PEDLs, well integrity, groundwater protection and whether fracking will happen in AONBs and National Parks. Politics around fracking for shale gas and oil look set to feature prominently in the lead up to the 2015 General Election and beyond.
In a series of three articles first published by Lexis Nexis from 20th February 2015 onwards Tim Pugh of BLP’s Oil and Gas Group explores the fractured logic around shale gas in the UK.
1. Legal Developments
- the relentless march of the Infrastructure Bill (including deep level drilling rights to overcome trespass liabilities) through Parliament to Royal Assent on 12 February and the compromises required to make that happen, and
- the decision of Gilbart J in the Frack Free Balcombe judicial review (R (on the application of Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association) v West Sussex County Council  EWHC 4108 (Admin),  All ER (D) 67 (Dec)R (on the application of Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association) v West Sussex County Council)
2. Practical and political developments
- Depressed oil and gas prices
- Recommendations on Cuadrilla’s recent Lancashire applications
- 14th Onshore Licensing Round bids
- Westminster compromises
- Scottish Govt moratorium announcement
- Welsh Government approach
Tim offers answers to some often asked questions:
- Are the Scottish moratorium and other environmental protections mentioned above the death knell for a viable fracking industry in the UK?
- How do the fracking licensed blocks interact with environmental protections? Which takes priority?
- What will this mean for businesses hoping to secure fracking licences?
- How much will the outcome of the general election affect the future of fracking in the UK?