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Thursday, 18 December 2014

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Cumbria could be sitting on gas energy goldmine

Cumbria could be sitting on an energy goldmine – but unleashing its potential could mean the use of controversial fracking.

frackingpic
Potential energy provider: Government wants to back a shale industry that is safe

Experts at the British Geological Survey (BGS) have predicted that reserves totalling more than 1,300 trillion cubic feet of the controversial shale gas lies buried under large parts of central England.

And scientists believe that the gas could also be found in areas along Cumbria’s west coast – stretching from north of Carlisle down to Whitehaven.

This week the Government welcomed a package of community benefits that has been brought forward by industry.

Companies involved in shale gas extraction have promised to engage with communities before applying for planning permission and will provide benefits in areas where shale is commercially extracted.

These will include £100,000 for communities situated near each exploratory well and a one per cent share of profits from every production site.

Extraction of the gas – a hydraulic fracturing technique also known as fracking – involves pumping water, sand and chemicals under high pressure into deep boreholes to force out the shale gas.

However concerns have been raised by local environmental groups over any adverse impact the process could have on the environment.

Jill Perry, secretary of the Allerdale and Copeland branch of the Green Party, said it would be bad news if fracking went ahead in this area. She said: “Shale gas needs to stay in the ground.”

Mrs Perry said that alternative energy generation such as anaerobic digestion would be a better option.

She said: “Shale gas is probably not going to be cheap in the UK to extract. It’s not going to be the magic bullet that the Government thinks it is going to be.”

One of the biggest fears expressed by opponents of shale gas extraction is the possibility of it causing earthquakes but Mrs Perry said the possibility of the water supply getting contaminated from chemicals used during fracking was a major concern.

Friends of the Earth campaigner Tony Bosworth said: “Shale gas is not the solution to the UK’s energy challenges. Its potential has been hugely over-hyped and there’s little evidence it will drive down fuel prices.

“Extracting shale gas will have a significant effect on local communities and our environment.”

Energy minister Michael Fallon disagreed and said: “Shale gas represents an exciting new potential energy resource for the UK, and could play an important part in our energy mix.

“The next step for industry is to establish how much gas is technically and commercially recoverable.

“We want to encourage a shale industry that is safe and that doesn’t damage the environment.”

A Cumbria County Council spokesman said that despite the area’s potential for shale gas being highlighted, the authority has not yet permitted or been notified about any proposals for exploratory drilling for shale gas, or for production.

IDuncan@cngroup.co.uk

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