December 5, 2012 / 1:56 PM / in 5 years

Britain creates shale gas office to simplify regulation

LONDON, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Britain on Wednesday launched a government office for shale gas to simplify regulation of the unconventional gas sector more than one year after it temporarily banned shale gas fracking for environmental reasons.

Finance minister George Osborne also confirmed his announcement made two month ago to hold public consultations on tax breaks for shale gas exploration.

“We are consulting on new tax incentives for shale gas and announcing the creation of a single office so that regulation is safe but simple,” Osborne said in his half-yearly budget statement.

The Office for Unconventional Gas and Oil will join up responsibilities across government departments to provide a single point of contact for investors and streamline the regulatory process.

Last year, Britain put a temporary halt on hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” for shale gas, a process in which water and chemicals are injected at high pressure into rock formations to retrieve trapped gas, after earth tremors were measured near a fracking site close to Blackpool.

Britain’s energy secretary has not officially lifted the ban but Wednesday’s confirmation of shale gas tax breaks implies Britain will allow fracking work to resume and he previously hinted at the fact he hoped to give it the green light.

Energy Minister John Hayes also said he was confident that Britain could issue licences for new shale gas projects once questions about environmental and seismic issues are answered. (Reporting by Karolin Schaps; Editing by Anthony Barker)

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