- UK 14th Licensing Round is now imminent
- Plans to hand over 60% of UK to frackers
- Preparations underway by the government
- Official notice publish in an EU journal
- Unused licences are being clawed back
- Where companies are failing to drill wells
- 26 licences relinquished in last few months
- Small fraction of existing onshore licences
- But is no cause for celebration at present
- Could soon be re-licensed to other companies
- Licensing system designed to maximise drilling
- New round could start as soon as early July
- Organised communities needed to resist
The Official Journal of the European Union recently (20 June 2014) published a notice from the UK government (PDF) advertising the imminent start of the 14th Onshore (Landward) Oil and Gas Licensing Round. This is a necessary precondition (PDF) for the licensing round and while there is a pretense that no decisions have been made, the government is busy preparing to get it underway. In this licensing round the government intends to give away the rights to frack up to 60 percent of the UK.
In the last few months fracking companies in the UK have given up a significant number of so called Petroleum Exploration And Development Licences (PEDL). These licences include Cuadrilla’s PEDL 247 covering a large area around Crowborough in East Sussex, two of UK Methane’s licences in Somerset (PEDL 226 covering an area around Chew Magna and PEDL 228 covering an area to the south of Keynsham), Dart Energy’s PEDL 211 which covers the Mawr in South Wales and Dart Energy’s PEDL 161 north of Largo Bay in East Fife.
Other companies that have given up some licences include IGas Energy, Celtique Energie, Egdon Resources and Coastal Oil & Gas, as well a number of other onshore oil and gas companies, so far less associated with frcaking. In all at least 26 licences across the country have been relinquished since February (see table below for a full list). This represents a small fraction of the current 170 onshore oil and gas licences in the UK but this sudden rash of relinquishments is not an everyday occurrence.
While this may seem like a cause for celebration, especially if you live in one of these licences, the reality is somewhat different. In many cases these companies have been forced to relinquish the licences because they have failed to comply with certain conditions associated with the licence: usually to drill one or more exploration wells within a certain time period. One of the main reasons for these failures to drill within the allotted time is likely to be the strength of the anti-fracking movement in the UK.
However, the timing of these relinquishments, in the run up to the 14th Onshore Licencing Round suggests there will be little respite for local communities. The government (DECC) is forcing these companies to hand back the licences so that it can hand them out to other companies. The licensing system is designed to maximise fossil fuel extraction and if companies sit on licenses without drilling, or aren’t aggressive enough in fighting community opposition, they are likely to lose them.
While the exact timing of the new licensing round is unclear, it could begin as soon as the end of this month, and will likely completed during the second half of this year. Many of these relinquished licences could then be re-licensed, if interest is not muted by the present intensity of anti-fracking resistance. Large additional areas of the country where there are no licences at present, will also be handed out to fracking companies. Now is the time for communities to get organised to resist this threat.
Table of onshore licences relinquished in the last few months
|EXL 290||Dart Energy||Ashfield||Nottinghamshire||CBM|
|PEDL 155||Northern Petroleum||Havant||Hampshire||?|
|PEDL 107||IGas Energy||Point Of Ayr||Flintshire||CBM|
|PEDL 161||Dart Energy||North Of Largo Bay||East Fife||CBM|
|PEDL 195||Dart Energy||South Staffordshire||Staffordshire||CBM|
|PEDL 198||Dart Energy||Milwich||Staffordshire||CBM|
|PEDL 196||Dart Energy||Cotes Heath||Staffordshire||CBM|
|PEDL 176||Dart Energy||Pocklington||East Riding of Yorkshire||CBM|
|PEDL 206||Egdon Resources||Newark-on-Trent||Nottinghamshire||?|
|PEDL 212||Eden Energy||Pontardawe||Neath Port Talbot||CBM|
|PEDL 218||Eden Energy||Treorchy||Rhondda Cynon Taf||CBM|
|PEDL 211||Dart Energy||Mwar||Swansea||CBM|
|PEDL 225||American Energy Development||Shepton Mallet||Somerset||CBM|
|PEDL 226||UK Methane||Chew Magna||Somerset||CBM|
|PEDL 228||UK Methane||Keynsham||Somerset||CBM|
|PEDL 239||Norwest Energy||Isle Of Wight||Hampshire||?|
|PEDL 238||Norwest Energy||Poole||Hampshire||?|
|PEDL 240||Northern Petroleum||Isle Of Wight||Hampshire||?|
|PEDL 232||Celtique Energie||Bognor Regis||West Sussex||?|
|PEDL 251||Coastal Oil & Gas||Dover||Kent||CBM|
|PEDL 247||Cuadrilla Resources||Crowborough||East Sussex||Shale Oil|
|PEDL 116||IGas Energy||Netherley||Merseyside||CBM|
|PEDL 256||Northern Petroleum||Cosham||Hampshire||?|
|PEDL 150||Europa Oil & Gas||North Kesteven||Lincolnshire||?|