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Shale/geothermal — compulsory access rights ‘in the national interest’

By Humphrey Douglas

The UK Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) has published the ‘Consultation on Proposal for Underground Access for the Extraction of Gas, Oil or Geothermal’, which suggests a compulsory land access right below 300m.

While such proposal was expected in relation to the UK’s developing shale industry, it is interesting to see such proposal aligned also to the non-fossil-fuelled geothermal industry.

While geothermal technology may appear somewhat esoteric compared with shale these days, DECC notes that, unlike petroleum developments (which have compulsory land access rights for horizontal drilling, etc, underground, pursuant to the Mines [Working Facilities and Support] Act 1966, as applied by section 7 of the Petroleum Act 1998), geothermal projects cannot use the Petroleum Act rights to access private land sub-surface (where a landowner withholds consent), and hence apparently need a new such right. While geothermal power technology is perhaps not popularly associated with horizontal drilling, DECC note that directional drilling is required to locate the best point from which to withdraw water, and for separation of colder water reinjection, not to mention where district heating networks may require horizontal drilling…

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