U.K. Lifts Ban on Hydraulic Fracturing

On December 13, 2012, Edward Davey, the U.K.’s Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, announced that hydraulic fracturing could resume in the U.K., subject to new controls to mitigate the risks of seismic activity. This follows the European Parliament’s rejection of a Europe-wide moratorium on hydraulic fracturing on November 21, 2012.

In the U.K., hydraulic fracturing was banned in May 2011 after two small earthquakes occurred near Lancashire, England.

In mid-2012, the U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the Royal Society, and the Royal Academy of Engineering concluded that “the health, safety, and environmental risks associated with [hydraulic fracturing] can be effectively managed” with new controls.

Under the new rules, in addition to obtaining all other necessary permits and consents before fracking, the operator must:
  • Conduct a pre-fracking review of all information on seismic risks and the existence of faults in the area; 
  • Submit to the DECC a progressive fracking plan showing how seismic risks will be addressed; 
  • Perform seismic monitoring before, during, and after the frac; and 
  • Implement a “traffic light” system which will be used to identify unusual seismic activity requiring reassessment or halting of operations. 
Secretary Davey also announced that the recently formed Office for Unconventional Gas and Oil will be overseeing the regulation of hydraulic fracturing and that a study will be commissioned to investigate possible impacts of shale gas development on greenhouse gas emissions and climate control.

Read Secretary Davey's complete statement.

This article was prepared by Barclay R. Nicholson (bnicholson@fulbright.com or 713 651 3662) from Fulbright's Energy Practice.