South Western Energy has confirmed it is pulling out of onshore gas exploration in parts of south west England.
Anti-fracking campaigners have described the decision as a victory for people power.
Speaking to DrillOrDrop this evening, the company said it would not be accepting four licences offered in the 14th round in the Forest of Dean and Wiltshire.
But the company’s chairman, Gerwyn Williams, said he would accept licences offered in north Somerset and Dorset.
He said the reason for giving up the licences was low energy prices.
“We want to cut the exposure of our family business.
“It’s a matter of economics and financial exposure
“If energy prices rise in the future we would certainly re apply for the Forest of Dean licences and possible Wiltshire.”
He added that the company might reapply outside of a formal licensing round.
Mr Williams said:
“The areas we are not accepting are the least prospective areas.”
A spokesperson for the Oil and Gas Authority made this statement:
“The OGA can confirm that some blocks offered under the 14th Onshore Licensing Round have not been accepted by those to whom they were offered.
“This means that the licences pertaining to these blocks will not be awarded.
Last year the OGA said these blocks, which were grouped into four licences, were primarily for exploration of coal bed methane.
Mr Williams denied that public opposition was a reason for not taking up the licences. He told DrillOrDrop:
“We would not bow to public pressure. There was very little public pressure in the Forest of Dean and Wiltshire.”
But campaigners in the Forest of Dean said they believed local opposition was important.
Owen Adams, of Frack Off Our Forest, said:
“Oliver Taylor [a company director] told a Forest of Dean District Councillor that public feeling was a factor in South Western Energy withdrawing.
“At a meeting brokered by Gloucestershire Police we had informed him face to face there was no way we would allow the company to explore for gas.
“We carried out village-by-village surveys and found up to 85% of residents were opposed to gas exploration – we also had thousands of people signing statements of objection, and several hundred people at each demonstration we held.
“So to tell you that public opposition wasn’t a factor contradicts theirs and our experience, and also contradicts what he told the councillor earlier today!
“Although we have scored a victory our campaign is by no means over. We want to ensure fracking can’t happen in the future, and also we will be helping to stop fracking elsewhere in solidarity with other campaigns.
“South Western Energy pulling out may be partly because they couldn’t raise the funds required – but public pressure was a significant factor, and may also have deterred potential investors. People power and community unity was responsible for beating off the gas explorers, and this will be the case everywhere.”
South Western was the third most successful companies in last year’s award of exploration licences. It received nine licences, behind only IGas and INEOSs.
Two licences were in the Forest of Dean and two in Wiltshire. The company was also awarded two licences in Dorset and three in Somerset, all of which it plans to keep.
In July, Mr Williams’ companies relinquished licence area in south Wales.
Updated 21.46 on 14/9/2016 to include comment from Frack Off Our Forest