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South Buckinghamshire, including High Wycombe, Beaconsfield and Marlow areas being assessed for fracking, with licences possibly open for bidding in 2014
PARTS of south Bucks may be offered to firms bidding for fracking licenses next year, the Free Press can reveal.
A Bucks County Council document shows that, in a crude map, southern areas, including around High Wycombe, Marlow and Beaconsfield, have been earmarked to be part of a Strategic Environmental Assessment.
These areas may, after being assessed, be offered to firms bidding to explore underground for shale gas.
Another round of Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences will be available from the Government next year.
The procedure to drill for shale gas is controversial due to environmental fears.
Julian Grigg, Labour’s Hambleden Valley by-election candidate called for a public debate. He believes Bucks could be used for fracking and expressed fears over noise and water pollution and earthquakes.
New Scientist reported fresh research last week that fracking caused over 100 small earthquakes in a year in Ohio, USA.
Any planning applications for fracking activities associated with Shale Gas exploration or extraction in Bucks would require planning permission from BCC as the Minerals Planning Authority.
However, no operators have yet approached it for pre-application discussions.
BCC Leader Martin Tett has asked an environment select committee to write a report, which will be finished in the new year.
He said: "It's one of the areas where we don't have a policy and one of the things I suggested was we ask our new select committee to do a thorough piece of work looking at all the pros and cons, what are the implications, is there shale gas in Bucks, and then come back with recommendations to cabinet.
"None of us really know enough at the moment."
To date, no producing oil or gas fields have been discovered in Bucks.
Wycombe Labour has called for a public consultation. Labour Councillor Robin Stuchbury denied the party was scaremongering and said it was crucial for residents to have the information to make up their own minds. He called for Tories "to get their heads out of the sand and face up to the possibility that fracking could come to Bucks."
Cllr Janet Blake, Conservative, Cabinet Member for Planning, said: "Buckinghamshire along with most parts of the UK, is currently being evaluated as part of a technical assessment by the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
"The study is part of the government’s consideration of the 14th round of onshore oil and gas development licences. We can confirm that no companies have approached the council with an interest in shale gas."
The licences grants exclusive rights to explore, drill and produce within a small, specified area.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change issues licences. It would not be drawn on specific locations, when asked by the Free Press this week, but did stress there are many hurdles to overcome before any operators can begin investigations.
The Prime Minister has backed fracking but protesters, including Green MP Caroline Lucas, have been demonstrating last week at a site in Sussex where exploratory oil drilling is taking place.
- Shale gas is mostly composed of methane - a natural gas - and is used to generate electricity and for domestic heating and cooking.
- Shale gas activity in the UK is still in the exploration stage, where companies are drilling test wells.
- There is no experience of production operations in UK conditions as yet, although we have a long history of production of oil and gas from ‘conventional’ onshore fields.
- Shale gas is produced directly from the source rock. It has to be systematically fractured or "fracked" to enable the gas to flow.
- Hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" is a technique that uses water pumped at high pressure into the rock to create narrow fractures to create paths for the gas to flow into the well bore and to surface.
- Permission for drilling a shale gas well a licence has to be gained from the DECC in competitive licence rounds which grant exclusivity to operators in the area.
- Operators must negotiate access with landowners for the drilling pad area and the surface under which any drilling extends.
-Permissions must also be obtained from the Coal Authority, the Minerals Planning Authority, and the Environment Agency in England.
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