Chemicals and energy giant Ineos have offered to drill a shale gas test site in the UK to demonstrate that fracking can be done safely, as the country wrestles with high energy prices.
It comes after the Government published its energy strategy which focuses on securing UK energy supplies, as western countries consider how to reduce reliance on Russian oil and gas.
Ineos founder and chairman Sir Jim Ratcliffe said: “The UK is in the midst of an energy crisis with ever increasing prices driving people into fuel poverty whilst giving huge sums of money to oppressive regimes.
“It’s a ridiculous situation with so much gas under our feet and we are today offering to drill a shale test site to show that a competent operator can be trusted to develop the technology safely”.
Just a few months ago, more than a decade of efforts to develop fracking for shale gas seemed to be over as authorities ordered the sealing of the only two horizontal drilled wells in Lancashire.
But with the energy crisis, there has been pressure to look again at the controversial gas source, and the order to permanently seal the wells has been suspended.
The Government has also commissioned a review into the science around fracking, which could pave the way to lifting the current moratorium on the process brought on by the tremors it caused.
But Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has warned fracking would take years of exploration and development to produce commercial levels of gas.
Ineos said the moratorium was imposed because the “science behind shale was totally ignored and politicians bowed to an extreme vocal minority”.
Promoting his new energy strategy, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Government was taking a “sensitive and pragmatic view” on new North Sea oil and gas and said it was important to license domestic resources rather than importing higher carbon fossil fuels from Russia and other places .
Sir Jim said: “The UK is right to be re-examining its energy policy and to look again at the North Sea as part of the answer to our energy needs.
“But, as the US has shown, shale gas from home could make us self-sufficient in 10 years and we need to re-examine this too.”
The Ineos chairman said the company would invite Government inspectors to monitor the site, and make it good if the science shows there are problems.
“But if, as we believe, the opposite is true, we would ask that the Government looks again at shale gas which would allow the UK to benefit from its own resources, massively reduce the cost of energy and ensure our long-term energy independence ,” Sir Jim said.
The move comes amid wider calls to end the fossil fuel era to tackle dangerous climate change, and Ineos said it is “part of the growing renewables revolution”.
“But renewable technology is not yet reliable enough to take over and the UK will need gas for the next 30 years as it goes through the energy transition,” the chemicals group said.