The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is currently making plans for a new onshore licensing round scheduled for the middle of next year. The fourteenth round will cover currently unlicensed parts of England, Scotland and Wales and will extend to shale oil and gas exploration and production. Michael Fallon, the energy minister, stated that ‘[w]e could be doubling the amount of onshore licences in this round’ and expects to issue 50-150 licences in the UK.
On 17 December 2013, the UK government published a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) report completed by engineering consultancy AMEC. The SEA includes a revision of the initial Environmental Report published in July 2010, and will be open for consultation until 28 March 2014. It states that 2,880 wells could be drilled, potentially 32,000 jobs created, and the production of more than three times the country's current gas demand in the 2020s. The government also published a Regulatory Roadmap for shale oil and gas developers setting out detailed guidance on the onshore permitting and permissions process.
The new licences would offer energy companies rights to drill across more than 37,000 square miles in total. Key players, such as GDF and Centrica, have already bought into onshore licences and over the past year oil majors, such as Total, and smaller companies have shown interest in shale gas exploration in the UK. Michael Fallon stated that ‘[t]oday marks the next step in unlocking the potential of shale gas in our energy mix’ as the government continues to support the development and investment in shale gas in the UK.