The government has no plans to extend the current temporary moratorium on hydraulic fracturing to include other forms of well stimulation, according to a letter from Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth, Kwasi Kwarteng.
Following the surprise announcement of a moratorium on fracking in England in November 2019, Weald Action Group member Brockham Oil Watch coordinated a campaign calling on the government to extend it to cover other extreme methods of oil and gas extraction. They launched an open letter to the government and regulators calling for a ban on all well stimulation for oil and gas exploration and production, which was signed by more than 600 academics, politicians and campaigners.
Brockham Oil Watch argued that there was no clarity over what legal and regulatory controls apply to oil and gas drilling methods that fall outside the narrow legal definition of hydraulic fracturing, such as acidisation. But Mr Kwarteng replied that acidisation is regulated by the Environment Agency, which was satisfied that the current regulations provided “a high standard of environmental protection”.
Brockham Oil Watch said: “The response is a polite but firm refusal and dismissal of our concerns.
“Specifically, on acidisation, it is true that the EA regulates this area, but the EA has failed to clarify the boundaries between well maintenance techniques and acid stimulation – a fracking-like technique.
“As it stands, permits and exclusions are granted based on the oil and gas firms’ stated intent, which results in insufficient restrictions, reporting and monitoring to guard against acid stimulation taking place under the guise of well maintenance.
“The EA’s regulatory position remains opaque, with no clarity whatsoever over where the boundary between unacceptably dangerous acid stimulation and routine well maintenance lies.”