The Government has drawn up a set of draft regulations that set out which areas will be protected from underground fracking.
The regulations also detail the additional protections that will be given to Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, World Heritage Sites, and National Parks etc.; when fracking is permitted in these areas, restrictions will be put in place to protect them.
Despite this, environmental groups have reacted angrily to the announcement that areas such as National Parks could be used for fracking. However, in a statement, Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom said:
“The UK has one of the best track records in the world when it comes to protecting our environment while also developing our industries – and we’ve brought that experience to bear on the shale gas protections.
“We need more secure, home grown energy supplies, and shale gas and oil have a vital role to play – much better that we use what we have at home than relying on supplies from volatile foreign imports.
Ms. Leadsom added that the fracking industry would be “developed safely with world class environmental protections, creating jobs and delivering better energy security while safeguarding of some of our most precious landscapes.”
Task Force on Shale Gas
The draft regulations from the Government come at the same time as the latest report from the Task Force on Shale Gas, which examines the possible health implications and environmental concerns that could be caused by the shale industry in the United Kingdom.
In its report, the Task Force detailed a number of recommendations to make the fracking industry safer. This includes companies providing full details of the chemicals that are used as part of fracking and regular monitoring from the Environment Agency to ensure that chemicals are kept at safe levels.
The Task Force also suggested that a National Advisory Committee should be formed so that data could be collected and monitored, making it possible to analyse any possible impact that fracking could have on health and the environment.
Commenting on the report, Lord Chris Smith, who chairs the Task Force on Shale Gas concluded by saying that:
“Only if the drilling is done properly and to the highest standard, and with rigorous regulation and monitoring, can shale gas fracking be done safely for local communities and the environment.”
Fracking has long been used in the U.K, but it gained more prominence when proposals were announced to use the method to extract shale gas; efforts are already being stepped up by several communities to prevent fracking in their local areas.
Contracts worth €1.5 billion have been awarded to build an electricity link between England and Norway. When it is complete, the interconnector will be the longest in the world; NSN Link Limited gave the contracts to Nexans and Prysmian, who will be responsible for constructing the 740 km route.
The England and Norway link will be the first time that two countries have shared a direct energy system; the project is a collaboration between the National Grid and Norwegian company Statnett SF.
The cables will run from Blyth in Northumberland to Kvilldal in Norway. It will require almost 1500 km of cable to complete the project and there will also be a 10 km offshore route.
Prysmian will be providing 950 km of the submarine and land cables; they will also be responsible for installing them. Prysmian will manufacture the cables in a factory in Naples and they will use a specially designed cable laying vessel, which is called the “Giulio Verne”.
Nexans will be providing cabling for the Norwegian side of the connection; they will manufacture the cables in their Halden-based factory.
Commenting on the project, Alan Foster, National Grid’s director of European Business Development, said
“There is a huge programme of work for us to undertake over the next five years to deliver what will be the world’s longest interconnector. Our contractors will have a big part to play in that successful delivery. But the benefits to both UK and Norway are also huge and when completed the link will deliver low carbon electricity for the UK and also add to security of supply for Norwegian consumers.”
Håkon Borgen, Executive Vice President of Statnett, added that the project was vital for the future of the energy system in Europe.
The licence that will allow the project to go ahead was first granted in 2013 when the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy gave permission for the interconnector to be built. Preparation work at the site will begin in 2016 and will continue into 2017 when construction will get underway
The link between the two countries will have numerous benefits including helping to provide a more secure power supply for both the UK and Norway, and the construction work will help to provide jobs. When the link has been finished it will have the capacity to produce 1400 MW of power.
It is expected that the work would be completed in 2019 and the interconnector will be operational by 2020.