More shale gas found than expected

The British Geological Survey is to publish a report in the New Year estimating that the 1,000 square kilometres covered by the Bowland Basin to the east of Blackpool contains 300 trillion cubic feet of gas, equivalent to 17 times the remaining known reserves in the North Sea.

The figure is some 100 trillion cubic feet more than drilling company Cuadrilla had first estimated, an amount many experts had dismissed as unrealistic.

However, the controversial fracking process which would extract the gas has not yet been given the go-ahead by the government, having concluded it was at fault for two earthquakes in Blackpool.

Chancellor George Osborne used last week’s autumn statement to announce the creation of the new Office for Unconventional Gas and Oil, which will regulate the process in the future should it get the green light.

Fracking is a controversial method of extracting gas from underground rock. Although it’s cheaper than the current process, there are fears that the chemicals used can pollute the water table and that breaking up bedrock can cause regular earthquakes inland.