|BRITAIN AWARDS MORE SHALE GAS LICENCES|
Aruba, December 17, 2015 - Britain awarded another 132 new onshore oil and gas exploration licences on Thursday, giving developers access to more land for shale gas fracking for the first time in seven years.
Britain is estimated to have substantial amounts of gas trapped in underground shale rocks and Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to go "all out" to extract these reserves, to help offset declining North Sea oil and gas output, despite opposition from environmental campaigners.
Many other European countries, including France and Germany, have banned the use of shale gas hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, due to environmental concerns.
The latest awards conclude Britain's first onshore oil and gas licensing round in seven years. Overall, it awarded 159 licences and 75 percent of the blocks covered were related to shale gas or oil, the government said.
Companies which obtained new licences include established shale gas companies IGas (IGAS.L), Egdon Resources (EGRE.L), Cuadrilla Resources and INEOS. The latter won 21 new licences which it said now made it Britain's biggest shale gas by acreage.
"We currently import around half of our gas needs, but by 2030 that could be as high as 75 percent," said Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom in a written statement to parliament. "That's why we're encouraging investment in our shale gas exploration so we can add new sources of home-grown supply to our real diversity of imports."
Britain on Thursday also said it will cut subsidies to renewable energy projects less than a week after a global climate change agreement was struck to wipe out carbon emissions this century.