Fracking 'is opportunity for Wales', say MPs

Fracking plant Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption It could take a decade to create a viable shale gas industry in Wales, said MPs

Fracking for shale gas represents an opportunity for Wales but must not be at the expense of its natural environment, a group of MPs have said.

The Welsh Affairs Committee said the UK and Welsh governments should work with companies to estimate how much shale gas Wales has by the end of 2014.

However it added they should consider environmental risks including traffic, noise and visual impact.

The UK Onshore Operators Group said it was vital to identify new gas sources.

Nearly 70% of the UK's gas supply will come from imports by 2025, according to the UK government.

The committee said as shale gas production across the UK was at the exploratory stage, it could take a decade to create a viable industry in Wales if substantial reserves were found.

Proposals to test drill for gas in both the Vale of Glamorgan and Wrexham in recent years have met with objections from parts of the community who have expressed fears over the environmental impact.

Sensitive areas

Some of the committee's main recommendations were:

  • The UK and Welsh governments should get a reliable range of estimates from companies as to how much shale gas could be available in Wales
  • Both should assess the overall impact of shale gas supply on the level of energy produced in Wales and the UK
  • The Welsh government should consider how to maximise job opportunities
  • It should consider the case for minimising ground-level works in sensitive areas such as national parks, sites of special scientific interest and areas of outstanding natural beauty

The committee's chair, Monmouth MP David Davies, said: "Shale gas offers a wealth of potential benefits for Wales, in terms of energy supply, economic benefits and employment.

"We know there is some environmental risk. The UK and Welsh governments must demonstrate that everything has been done to assess and mitigate that risk."

Ken Cronin, chief executive of the UK Onshore Operators Group, the representative body for the UK onshore oil and gas industry, said: "We are at an early stage in the development of shale gas in Wales as well as the rest of the UK and it is vital that we now get on and drill exploratory wells that will provide the basis for a commercial industry."

Fracking is a technique where water and chemicals are pumped into shale rock at high pressure to extract gas.

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