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Fracking for shale gas in England

Progress in establishing a shale gas industry in England has been slower than government planned, according to the report published by the National Audit Office (NAO).

Government has committed to developing a shale gas industry in England amid public concern over the environmental and public health risks from fracking. In response, the NAO has reviewed the current landscape of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of shale gas in England.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (the Department) does not know how much shale gas can be commercially extracted in the UK. In 2016, Cabinet Office expected up to 20 fracked wells by mid-2020. Three wells have been fracked to date.

The Department has encouraged operators to determine the viability of the industry and introduced measures to support the planning process. Operators have said the system to protect against the risk of earthquakes is stricter than that used internationally and has hindered their ability to develop the industry.

The Department does not expect shale gas production to lead to lower energy prices, but believes it could provide greater energy security and have economic benefits. However, it has not analysed the benefits or costs of supporting the shale gas industry because it thinks this would not be meaningful due to the current uncertainty about how much shale gas can be extracted.