IChemE is backing a UK government decision to lift an embargo on hydraulic fracturing – better known as fracking – after creating new regulations that it says will reduce the chance of causing earthquakes.

The technique, which involves injecting thousands of tons of water into gas bearing rock formations, has been a major source of controversy over recent years. It was temporarily banned in the UK last year, after wells drilled by gas explorer Cuadrilla Resources were linked to a series of earthquakes.

Nevertheless, the government has now ruled that the process itself poses no threat to the environment or public, provided it is well regulated. “My decision is based on the evidence,” says energy and climate change minister Ed Davey. “It comes after detailed study of the latest scientific research available and advice from leading experts in the field.”

“We are still in the very early stages of shale gas exploration in the UK and it is likely to develop slowly,” he adds. “It is essential that its development should not come at the expense of local communities or the environment.”

“Fracking must be safe and the public must be confident that it is safe.”

IChemE director of policy and communications Andrew Furlong, says that ‘shale gas presents an enormous opportunity for the UK’, and has welcomed the decision.

“The health, safety and environmental risks associated with hydraulic fracking can be managed effectively as long as the activity is fully risk assessed and operational best practice is implemented through appropriate regulation,” he adds.“

“Fracking is an established technology that has been used in the oil and gas sector for decades. Furthermore, the UK has 60 years’ experience of regulating the oil and gas industries, offshore and onshore.”

“Chemical and process engineers have extensive knowledge of the exploration and production of natural gas.”

The Government’s decision to allow shale gas exploration to continue with strict safety controls is the right one, says the Institution of Gas Engineers & Managers (IGEM), which praised the Government for creating a single office to regulate shale gas and fracking and for indicating tax breaks may apply for shale gas producers.

IGEM’s CEO Dr Claire Curtis-Thomas said, “The Government’s decision-making has been based on months of careful and detailed consideration of all the environmental aspects of shale gas extraction which directly and immediately concern members of the public. This has included listening to the anxieties of all parties including those both supported and unsupported by evidence.”

“Safety controls are at the heart of this decision to allow explorers like Cuadrilla to resume fracking for shale gas. The UK has maintained an exemplary record for gas industry safety, supported by the Technical Standards IGEM produces and regularly reviews which have been relied upon every day for 60 years, and which will be developed for shale gas producers in order to keep the lights on and the public safe.”

“This decision is right for the UK and will ensure that tax revenues currently paid to countries such as Qatar are in fact paid by British-based companies to the UK Government which is seeking to reduce energy bills for cash-strapped households and find new sources of income to reinvest in renewables. Our massive reserves of shale gas will make this easier and the Government has made the right decision.”