October 30, 2012 / 4:11 PM / in 5 years

Britain may soon start new shale gas licensing round

* Govt requested details from Cuadrilla about seismic tests

* Regulation needed to assure shale gas safety

LONDON, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Britain could soon launch a new round of licensing for shale gas exploration, pending information from the country’s most advanced shale gas company and tighter regulation, Britain’s Energy Minister said on Tuesday.

The government last year put a temporary halt to fracking, a process whereby water and liquid are injected at high pressure into rock formations to retrieve trapped gas, after earthquakes were measured near a fracking site operated by Cuadrilla Resources.

Energy Minister John Hayes told Reuters he had requested detailed information from Cuadrilla Resources about seismic testing, its management process and the company’s timetable for moving from exploration to production.

“I‘m confident that once those questions are complete, we can look again at the timetable for licensing new work,” he said.

In addition to answers from Cuadrilla, he said he wanted to ensure the correct regulation was in place to guarantee the work would be safe.

“I have further things to say about the regulatory framework, the oversight essential to assure absolute safety and security,” Hayes said.

A number of expert reports have recommended that the government should allow shale gas fracking to resume under tighter rules to take advantage of potentially vast resources, which could help ease Britain’s growing dependence on gas imports.

The government is expected to issue a new estimate of shale gas resources in the Bowland formation before the end of the year, followed by A more comprehensive prediction for the whole country in 2013.

Even though fracking is still prohibited, Britain’s finance minister said earlier this month the government was considering the introduction of generous tax breaks for shale gas exploration. (Reporting by Karolin Schaps; editing by Jane Baird)

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