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Oil and Gas Exploration

Volume 572: debated on Tuesday 17 December 2013

I have today published a regulatory road map for onshore oil and gas exploration and a strategic environmental assessment, which represent important steps for onshore oil and gas exploration, including shale gas.

The Government are keen to explore the potential for shale gas in the UK, which could bring major benefit in terms of growth, jobs and energy security. However we must develop shale responsibly, both for local communities and for the environment. These documents will help ensure this and enable a sustainable and successful industry for the long term.

First, the regulatory road map sets out the process operators should follow when seeking to drill for onshore oil and gas in the UK. The content is primarily for unconventional oil and gas operations—specifically shale gas and coal-bed methane developments—but many of the processes described will apply equally to conventional operations.

The road map is intended as a first point of reference, so that operators, planners and the public can see the overall regulatory process. This will help operators in particular by making it clear what they need to do and when, while providing useful links to more detailed guidance.

The road map does not contain any new policy but sets out the current process in one place. It also reflects the regulatory differences between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It focuses on the exploration and appraisal phases, rather than production and decommissioning.

The road map can be viewed on the website and will be kept up to date to reflect changes in regulation.

I have also today published for consultation an environmental report on our proposals for further onshore oil and gas licensing in areas of Great Britain.

The report identifies, describes and evaluates the likely significant effects on the environment of DECC’s proposals to invite applications for new licences, and of reasonable alternatives to that plan; and how these effects can be reduced or offset.

This report is a necessary part of the process of strategic environmental assessment (SEA), required by EU law.

The consultation will be open until 28 March 2014. Once the consultation responses have been taken into account I will issue a “post-adoption statement” which will summarise how the Government intend to proceed in relation to the 14th onshore oil and gas licensing round.

The environmental report can be viewed on the website.