Government proposes relaxing rules on deep underground access for energy

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We are over half way through the consultation period for the government to allow greater access for underground drilling to help shale gas and deep geothermal energy development.

The government’s view is that current rules mean obtaining permission to explore for shale gas or the potential for deep geothermal energy underground is too “costly, time-consuming and disproportionate”.  They believe new rules will allow developers to use new drilling techniques to explore the potential for energy production whilst providing a voluntary payment to the local community.

Currently, companies/developers have to negotiate rights of access with every landowner living above the drilling, even though activity typically takes place far below ground (up to 1500 metres). This means individual landowners have the power to significantly delay developments, regardless of the surrounding communities’ wishes.

The main changes the government propose are:

  • underground right of access for shale gas and deep geothermal operations only below 300m;
  • a voluntary community payment of £20,000 per lateral well; and
  • a clear notification system to alert local people.

Developers will still have to obtain relevant environmental and planning permissions whilst complying with regulations on seismic activity.

On publishing the proposals, the (recently replaced) Energy Minister, Michael Fallon said: “These proposals allow shale and geothermal development while offering a fair deal for communities in return for underground access at depths so deep they will have no negative impact on landowners.”

For more information, help or advice please contact Andrew Davison on 0191 211 7950.