UK shale legislation — what could (and should) change from 4 June?

By Humphrey Douglas

According to reports by the BBC and the Financial Times, Whitehall sources have indicated that the government plans to propose a new Infrastructure Bill in the Queen’s Speech on 4 June 2014. The bill may provide for automatic access rights for certain shale developments below a minimum depth and establish a landowner notification and compensation procedure (with a compensation cap). Although the focus is expected to be on the facilitation of installation of export pipelines under private land, the legislation may also be relevant to horizontal drilling, well completion and stimulation techniques.

Discussions on horizontal drilling rights in the UK are, however, now well rehearsed. Drilling under private land without the owner’s consent is a trespass; compulsory access rights and compensation mechanisms already exist, but they are untested in the shale context, they involve potentially lengthy procedures and their application could be subject to judicial review. In the US, directional drilling techniques have been used (e.g. under Dallas Fort Worth Airport) to avoid unleased land and ‘set-back’ restrictions. Although the UK already has a long-established conventional onshore industry, such directional drilling techniques are not yet cited as a potential solution (and would not prevent the need to obtain a neighbour’s land access consent).

The land access issue is nevertheless often cited in the UK as a significant reason why, so far, early shale investments and recent consolidation among developers have not yet translated into drilling permit applications. All appreciate that, unless test drilling commences in the UK, and the commercial viability of shale production is proven relatively quickly, further funding may not be forthcoming. No wonder the government is keen to be seen removing perceived blocks to development…

Click on the link below to read the rest of the Dentons briefing.

Sign in or Register to continue reading this article

Sign in

Register

It's quick, easy and free!

It takes just 5 minutes to register. Answer a few simple questions and once completed you’ll have instant access.

Register now

Why register to The Lawyer

 

Industry insight

In-depth, expert analysis into the stories behind the headlines from our leading team of journalists.

 

Market intelligence

Identify the major players and business opportunities within a particular region through our series of free, special reports.

 

Email newsletters

Receive your pick of The Lawyer's daily and weekly email newsletters, tailored by practice area, region and job function.

More relevant to you

To continue providing the best analysis, insight and news across the legal market we are collecting some information about who you are, what you do and where you work to improve The Lawyer and make it more relevant to you.

Analysis from The Lawyer

View more analysis from The Lawyer

Overview

1 Fleet Place
London
EC4M 7RA
UK
http://www.dentons.com/

Qualified lawyers: 51
Partners: 12
Offices: 4

(International Top 50)