Britain has formally lifted a moratorium on fracking for shale gas that had been in place since 2019, saying strengthening the country’s energy supply was an “absolute priority”.
Business and Energy Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg said all sources of energy needed to be explored, “so it’s right that we’ve lifted the pause to realise any potential sources of domestic gas”.
“In light of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and weaponisation of energy, strengthening our energy security is an absolute priority,” he said.
Fracking, a process which blasts water, sand and chemicals underground at high pressure to release shale oil and gas, was banned after the industry regulator said it was not possible to predict the magnitude of earthquakes it might trigger.
Under the rules, fracking operations were paused every time the practice caused a 0.5 magnitude earthquake or higher, a level scientists said would need to be increased if Britain is to develop a fracking industry.
A review of acceptable levels of seismic activity said on Thursday that limited exploration to date meant that the understanding of the risks was incomplete.
The government said that ending the ban would allow drilling to restart and more data to be gathered, building research on how shale gas can be safely extracted where there was local support.
In a statement, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) confirmed support for a new oil and gas licensing round next month for 100 new licences.
It also published the British Geological Survey’s scientific review into shale gas extraction, which was commissioned earlier this year.
“The review recognised that we have limited current understanding of UK geology and onshore shale resources, and the challenges of modelling geological activity in relatively complex geology sometimes found in UK shale locations,” the statement noted.
Environmentalists have accused Truss of backpedalling on predecessor Boris Johnson’s firm commitment to reduce UK carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, and argued that the process contaminates water supplies, hurts wildlife, causes earthquakes and contributes to global climate change.
Government spokesman Max Blain insisted that Truss “is committed to net zero,” but that getting there “does involve using transition fuels like oil and gas.”