Tighter controls aim to accelerate UK shale exploration and production, says Eversheds

Jason Lovell, partner at Eversheds, has commented on news that more fracking licences are being granted, but with protection for national parks.

He said: ‘The 14th onshore licensing round was announced by the energy minister, Matthew Hancock, on 28 July 2014 and applications for licences will be accepted up to 28 October 2014.

‘Among the excitement, it should not be overlooked that the form of licence applicable to the licensed areas has recently been changed. DECC, as the responsible licensing body, has recognised the different attributes of shale gas exploration, production programmes and the fact that shale gas is typically spread across wider areas compared with conventional oil and gas resources.

‘It is showing flexibility in relation to retention — with the previous requirement to surrender 50 per cent of the licensed area after the initial term no longer automatically applying.’

However, Lovell added, it is clear that licensees are also being put under tighter controls in terms of proposed activities, including drill-or-drop commitments, more stringent timescales and reporting — all with a clear directive to force an acceleration of the activities of licensees in both the exploration and production phase.