Stormont to assess fracking safety
Published 13/12/2012 | 12:39
The safety of a controversial technique to extract gas from the ground is still in question, Northern Ireland's environment minister said.
The Government in Britain has given the go-ahead for a firm to resume fracking in Lancashire. Work was stopped after two tremors happened and conditions have been imposed to minimise the risk of seismic activity.
Fracking involves creating small explosions underground then injecting water and chemicals to release gas trapped in cavities in shale rock. Critics said it can pollute water and cause minor earthquakes.
Exploration company Tamboran hoped to begin extracting shale gas in Fermanagh by early 2014.
Stormont environment minister Alex Attwood said: "There is of course a wider and more fundamental issue, that is the question as to how safe is fracking?
"The science on this is still developing. Research is continuing in Europe, in America and on this island.
"It will be some time before that research is concluded. This is one of the crucial pieces that needs to be assessed when looking at the fracking picture."
Great Britain Energy Secretary Ed Davey described shale gas as a promising new potential energy resource for the UK. It might contribute to energy security and take the place of imports which are increasing as North Sea gas supplies decrease, he said.
He added the impact on water and local air pollution was already covered by existing rules on oil and gas.
Mr Attwood said a decision on fracking in Northern Ireland was strictly for Stormont.