Three key areas account for most of the first new onshore licences to explore for oil and gas announced today by the government.
Of the 27 unveiled at lunchtime, eight are in Lincolnshire, nine in Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire, and four between Sheffield and Leeds.
Seven of the new licences have acreage in the single parliamenrary constituency of Gainsborough held by the Conservative backbencher Edward Leigh.
Only two first-stage licences have been awarded in north-west England, the area already targetted by IGas and Cuadrilla.
Across the country, there are no first round licences south of Leicestershire. No licences were announced for Scotland or Wales today because of plans to devolve responsibility for licencing to the Scottish and Welsh Governments.
The most successful companies in the first stage are: IGas with seven licences, Cirque with four and Ineos with three. Cuadrilla, which wants to frack for shale gas in Lancashire, won a licence in East Yorkshire and one around Barnsley. Link to government details
The government has divided up the award of licences into two stages. The first stage was said to cover areas regarded by the government as less environmentally-sensitive.
The second group of 132 blocks will be assessed under wildlife regulations and announced later in the year. A consultation on the second stage licences began today.
Taken together, the two stages target the Bowland shale areas either side of the Pennines. Government Map.
Although the Weald basin was included in the 14th Round, only one licence is proposed for this area in the second stage, in east Surrey. No licences are proposed for London or Kent in the second stage, although companies were invited to bid here.
There are also no plans to licence a large swathe of England between Bath in the south west, Canterbury in the south east, the Wash on the east coast and Stafford in the north west Midlands.
A small number of licences are proposed for the Hampshire region, Dorset and the area south of Bristol and Bath.
But the main concentration is in Cheshire, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. When the second stage licences have been awarded, the whole of the east coast from Skegness to Scarborough will under licence.
“Black day” for the north of England
Chris Redston, of Frack Free Ryedale described the announcement as a “black day for the North of England”. He said it was now “officially designated as a sacrifice zone in the Government’s reckless and unpopular drive towards fracking”.
“News of new exploration licences all across Yorkshire will send shockwaves through many areas that have so far been free of the threat of fracking.”
“The effect of widespread fracking across Yorkshire would have a huge impact on the lives of rural communities all across the county, as their lives become blighted by endless HGV traffic, noisy drilling, air pollution, health impacts and threats to their water supplies.”
“The region’s core industries of agriculture and tourism are also under serious threat as the government attempts to green-light the industrialisation of the countryside across Yorkshire.”
“The public understands the folly of starting a dangerous new fossil fuel industry at a time when the world is threatened by climate change, and the fight against fracking will only increase as more areas of the country are sold off to the fracking industry.”
“Opportunity for home-grown oil”
Stephen Bowler, Chief Executive of IGas, said:
“We are delighted with these new licence offers which further increases our oil and gas operations onshore in Britain and extends our acreage position in the strategically important Gainsborough Trough.
We are also particularly pleased to be strengthening the relationships with Total and Egdon, our existing partners in PEDL’s 139 and 140 in the East Midlands.
This licensing round is important in realising the significant opportunity to produce home-grown oil and gas and help secure Britain’s energy needs for the future.”
Licensing round details
A government statement said there had been a total of 95 applications from 47 companies for 295 licence blocks (usually 10km2). 100 applications were rejected follow reviews of geotechnical analysis, operator competency, financial viability, capacity and environmental awareness.
The first stage licences are blocks that are more than 10km from a European designated wildlife site, such as Special Area of Conservation or Special Protection Area. The government has decided there will be no likely significant effects of exploration on protected areas. These licences will be awarded formally when the wildlife assessment on the second stage blocks is completed.
The second set of licence blocks, totaling 132, have been subject to Habitat Regulations Assessments. As a result of that, the Oil and Gas Authority proposes to add conditions to the licence on 73 blocks. The consultation on the assessment methodology is open until 29th September 2015.