To frack, or not to frack? That is the question.

06 December 2019

Wilkin Chapman Partner James Lloyd, who is highly knowledgeable within the agricultural sector, looks at this controversial practice and its impact upon landowners.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has put fracking on indefinite hold following a report by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), which said it was not possible to predict the probability or size of tremors caused by the practice.

As is well-reported, this controversial method of extraction was suspended, after activity by Cuadrilla Resources at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire caused a magnitude 2.9 earthquake.

Although there is room for resumption, this is a significant let up in the Government’s chase for shale gas extraction. The benefits of the country being able to produce energy from its own resources were considered obvious - so obvious, that the Infrastructure Act 2015 included measures to prevent farmers and landowners objecting to extraction under their land.

The Government already had ownership of all underground oil and gas nationwide, since 1934, but the recent change was about the ability to extract what it owns and how that interacts with landowner’s rights. The new overriding ability of the Government to be able to do so, when some landowners have been diametrically opposed due to environmental concerns, has taken many by surprise.

It should be noted that landowners’ content with fracking could receive financial incentives via the operators for access and the surface structures, but the extraction of the shale gas itself under land where no surface rights were needed comes with no compensation.

That said, the industry had sought to deal with this general ability to take gas from under the land of an entire neighbourhood, by offering community payments affected areas. However, such funds failed to convince many of the safety of fracking and whether our knowledge and regulation were sufficient.

It appears that a hiatus in pressing ever onward is therefore the right decision. Any Government needs to properly consider the public confidence and support in presenting workable solutions to the country’s energy needs.

James advises landowners on all aspects of energy diversification, including the introduction of solar power and battery storage. He can be contacted on 01482 398396, email james.lloyd@wilkinchapman.co.uk or visit wilkinchapman.co.uk.


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