There are many regulations in place covering different aspects of the shale development process, which affect where it can take place. These exist to ensure that no drilling takes place into unsuitable terrain.
The main regulators are the Environment Agency, the Department of Energy and Climate Change, local mineral planning authorities, and the Health and Safety Executive.
In addition to this, local planning controls must be satisfied before operations can begin. There are also 17 separate pieces of European legislation covering the process.
- Department of Energy and Climate Change – issues Petroleum Licences, gives consent to drill under the Licence once other permissions and approvals are in place, and has responsibility for assessing the risk of seismic activity, as well as granting consent to flaring or venting;
- Minerals Planning Authorities – grant permission for the location of any wells and well pads, and impose conditions to ensure that the impact on the use of the land is acceptable;
- Environment Agency – protect water resources (including groundwater aquifers), ensure appropriate treatment and disposal of mining waste, emissions to air, and suitable treatment and manage any naturally occurring radioactive materials; and
- Health and Safety Executive - regulates the safety aspects of all phases of extraction, in particular responsibility for ensuring the appropriate design and construction of a well casing for any borehole.
The UK Government has also published the UK Regulatory roadmap and this can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-roadmap-onshore-oil-and-gas-exploration-in-the-uk-regulation-and-best-practice
With regards to WHERE it should take place, the main issues are:
- Where shale gas reserves are located. The British Geological Survey has conducted this research. The Government is responsible for issuing licenses, to allow shale operators to acquire exploration rights in specific locations.
- Environmental impact assessments advise shale operators and communities of what the local impacts may be. The Government has also introduced new measures in July to prevent drilling in national parks, except in “exceptional circumstances.”
- Local authority planning permissions, to allow shale companies to explore, are based on public submissions and the views of Public Health England, the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency
- Further planning permissions are required for an operator to move from exploration to full-scale development
- The Government’s Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is also required to give final consent for drilling. DECC checks that the proposals make efficient use of the nationally owned resource. DECC will also check that the Environmental regulator and Health and Safety Executive have no objections to the proposed operations, before consent is given.