Industrial giant Ineos has called for the government to relax its “unworkable” rules on fracking – and accused it of trying to shut down the industry “by the backdoor”.
The company’s billionaire chairman Sir Jim Ratcliffe claimed the UK’s “non-existent” energy strategy meant the government was “playing politics with the future of the country”.
Ineos wants to change regulations which currently mean work must be halted for 18 hours if seismic activity of magnitude 0.5 on the Richter scale or above is detected at fracking sites.
It wants to see this changed to a “more sensible level” pointing to a limit of 4.0 in the US – thousands of times greater than the UK threshold.
The company, which has the largest shale gas licence acreage in Britain, demanded that the government must either make shale workable or shut it down.
It pointed to recent announcements that nuclear energy plant plans from Hitachi and Toshiba had been dropped as evidence that the UK has “no coherent energy policy”.
The company said: “The government is shutting down shale by the back door and is betting the future of our manufacturing industry on windmills and imported gas from countries which are potentially unstable.”
It compared Britain’s approach unfavourably with that of the US where it said a million shale gas wells had been drilled safely.
Sir Jim said: “The government’s position is unworkable and unhelpful.
“They are playing politics with the future of the country.
“We have a non-existent energy strategy and are heading towards an energy crisis that will do long term and irreparable damage to the economy.”
Cuadrilla, currently the only company to have fracked for gas in Britain, had to halt operations several times last year at its site in Lancashire due to seismic events which exceeded the limit.
It has also said the current limits are too stringent but the government said earlier this year it has no plans to change the rules.
Britain currently imports around 60% of its gas needs via pipelines from Norway and continental Europe and tankers of liquefied natural gas from countries including Qatar, Russia and the US.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves extracting gas from rocks by breaking them up with water and chemicals at high pressure.
Environmentalists have raised concerns about contamination of groundwater and say extracting more fossil fuel is at odds with commitments to reduce fossil fuel emissions.
Greenpeace chief scientist Doug Parr said: “For years those worried about fracking have been assured that our safety regulations are far tougher than those in the US.
“Now that the industry is having trouble sticking to UK regulations, we’re assured US regulations are perfectly adequate and should be copied here. We do not feel reassured.”
(c) Sky News 2019: Ineos calls for ‘unworkable’ fracking rules to be relaxed