Minerals and Waste

Frequently Asked Questions for this Service

Question: What is conventional oil and gas?

Answer: 'Conventional' onshore oil and gas refers to oil and gas resources (also known as 'hydrocarbons') which are situated in relatively porous sandstone or limestone rock formations. The source rocks of these oil and gas reservoirs are usually underlying shale. Conventional oil and gas resources can be found on-shore as well as off-shore (e.g. the North Sea).

The oil and gas industry is well established in the United Kingdom, having focused historically on exploiting onshore and offshore conventional oil and gas. Conventional oil and gas exploration is not a new activity on the Isle of Wight with conventional oil and gas exploration taking place in a number of areas. Conventional onshore oil and gas extraction does not include the extraction of shale oil or gas.

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Question: What is unconventional oil and gas?

Answer: Oil and gas produced from shale is often referred to as 'unconventional' and refers to the type of rock in which it is found. In short, 'unconventional oil and gas' is from unconventional sources. It is found where oil and gas has become trapped within the shale rock itself and did not form traditional conventional reservoirs.

Geologists have known for years that substantial deposits of oil and natural gas are trapped in deep shale formations. These rock formations have previously been considered too impermeable ('tight') to allow for economic recovery. However, technological advancements over the last decade have made the potential to extract shale oil or gas potentially more economically viable. As a result, unconventional oil and gas is emerging as a form of energy supply and the Government's position is that there is a pressing need to establish (through exploratory drilling) whether or not there are sufficient recoverable quantities of unconventional oil and gas present to facilitate economically viable full scale production. The level of resource which can be viably extracted is still largely unknown. Exploratory development will allow for a better understanding of the nature of unconventional resources. This type of hydrocarbon is typically found at far greater depths than conventional oil and gas resources. On the Isle of Wight, unconventional oil and gas relates only to the potential for shale oil and gas. Other unconventional resources such as coal bed methane will not be found on the Island due to its geology.

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Question: What are the different methods of extracting conventional and unconventional oil and gas?

Answer: The key outward differences between conventional and unconventional oil and gas is flow rate and the depth of drilling. Drilling into a conventional resource would normally result in at least some flow of oil and gas immediately. An unconventional accumulation has to be stimulated in some way before it will even begin to flow e.g. through hydraulic fracturing and other processes. Drilling for unconventional resources also takes place at a much deeper depth than it does for conventional resources. All oil and gas development takes place in phases which may differ between conventional and unconventional oil and gas activity.

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Question: How is oil and gas exploited?

Answer: Conventional extraction methods generally involve drilling a borehole down to porous rock where oil or gas has formed in a reservoir. Accessing shale resources requires the use of established oil and gas techniques. These include:

• Vertical drilling: used to reach the required depth below the surface;
• Horizontal drilling: used to maximise the amount of shale available for hydraulic fracturing; and
• Hydraulic fracturing: used to maximise the amount of resources that can be extracted.

Whilst none of these techniques are new, technological advances have allowed for increased control and accuracy during drilling allowing for shale exploitation. The industry body United Kingdom Onshore Oil and Gas provides more information on the drilling process. - Related Link

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Question: What is the hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking' process?

Answer: Like conventional oil and gas development, unconventional development will take place in phases. Hydraulic fracturing will only occur for a limited period as part of an oil or gas development.

Typically a horizontal well would be 'fracked' for a few days to a few weeks. Hydraulic fracturing is only required to release the resources from the rock formations so they can be extracted (i.e. not at all stages of the development). The fractures achieved create paths for the oil or gas to flow into the wellbore up to the surface. The United Kingdom has a history of hydraulic fracturing for conventional oil and gas developments. It has been used to help extraction by improving flow rates.

Planning practice guidance for onshore oil and gas issued by the Department of Communities and Local Government provides more detailed definitions of hydraulic fracturing. In addition, the British Geological Survey (BGS) and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) also provide further information on the hydraulic fracturing process. The United Kingdom Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG) website includes more information on the drilling process. - Related Link

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Question: Why are oil and gas important?

Answer: Oil and gas (also known as 'hydrocarbons') are primary sources of energy. They play a central role in the economy of the United Kingdom (UK). However, oil and gas are both finite natural resources which are being depleted through our energy requirements. There is a national and local need to sustainably secure oil and gas resources and to support sustainable growth of the economy.

Unconventional oil and gas (such as shale) is emerging as a form of energy supply nationally but is not an activity which currently takes place on the Isle of Wight. The Government believes shale oil and gas has the potential to provide the UK with greater energy security, growth and jobs. Increasing demands for oil and gas and the need for national energy security, has led to oil and gas companies seeking to employ new techniques to extract the oil or gas resources from the ground. One such technique is hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking'.

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Question: Who owns the mineral rights for oil and gas?

Answer: A landowner does not own the rights to conventional or unconventional oil and gas reserves which may lie beneath their landholdings. The Petroleum Act 1998 vests all rights and ownership of hydrocarbon resources to the Crown. These rights are administered by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (the Department of Energy and Climate Change - DECC) on behalf of the Crown. - Related Link

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Question: What are the main concerns being raised about unconventional oil or gas extraction and associated hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking'?

Answer: Hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking' is a process which has come under intense environmental scrutiny in the United Kingdom in recent years. The main environmental concerns related to unconventional shale oil or gas extraction being raised include:

• water quantities, potential impact on water resources and water supply;
• chemical usage;
• potential seismic impacts;
• waste disposal;
• impact on climate change;
• safety;
• the effectiveness of the planning and regulatory systems to deal with; and
• how other environmental and amenity concerns (such as HGV movements, noise, impact on designated sites, restoration and aftercare) will be addressed.

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Question: Will oil and gas development impact water resources and how will water resources be protected?

Answer: It is important that any oil or gas development (conventional or unconventional) does not have a significant impact on water resources, particularly when these feed into local water supplies. Water resources and potential impacts on local water availability are therefore very important considerations in the planning process, even though this issue is also covered under other regulatory regimes. Aquifers are very important as they help to provide us with the water we need. Freshwater aquifers are at shallow depths (typically within 100 metres of the ground surface). The British Geological Survey (BGS) have mapped the principle aquifers in the UK. Aquifers are protected during oil and gas extraction by the use of triple cemented casing. This means that the risk of water contamination associated with oil and gas development is low provided operations follow industry standards and obey the necessary regulations. In relation to hydraulic fracturing', evidence shows that this process will take place at a depth sufficiently distant from groundwater to ensure that the risk of fractures extending into aquifers is considered to be negligible if best practice is followed. Extraction therefore would take place well below the aquifers.

For any oil or gas development which has hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking' associated with it, water is an essential part of the process as it is injected, at pressure, into the shale rock to help with the gas extraction process. Water use is greatest at the production stage as part of the hydraulic fracturing process. The water required for oil and gas development may be obtained from the local mains water supply (subject to agreement from the relevant utilities company) or taken ('abstracted') from surface or groundwater (if permitted by the EA).

In relation to shale gas, a report was prepared by the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering (RSRAE) on the scientific and engineering evidence relating to the technical aspects of the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking'.
- Related Link

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Question: How are water resources considered through the planning and regulatory processes?

Answer: The National Planning Policy Framework sets out the basis for minerals policy in the United Kingdom. This is accompanied by National Planning practice guidance for onshore oil and gas. Locally, the adopted Island Plan: The Isle of Wight Core Strategy (including Minerals & Waste) and Development Management Policies DPD (adopted March 2012) includes policies (SP9 Minerals and DM20 Minerals) which consider the protection of water resources. The Environment Agency (EA) protects water resources as part of its role as an environmental regulator. - Related Link

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Question: Will oil and gas development cause emissions and will it impact the climate change and the renewable energy agenda?

Answer: Emissions to air are a consideration associated with oil and gas development where a development may result in dust, particulates and NoX and fugitive gas. Proposals for oil and gas development will be expected to address these potential impacts. UK and EU legislation, monitoring and controls of emissions by the EA help to mitigate potential impacts. As there is a long history of conventional oil and gas development in the United Kingdom (UK), the carbon footprint associated with the impacts of the practice is more known. However, the potential carbon footprint of unconventional oil and gas development is not yet known due to the limited activity in this area to date.

Concerns have been raised that oil and gas development does and will continue to contribute towards climate change, in particular through the generation of Greenhouse Gases (GHG). GHG are associated with emissions (methane) released during the extraction process and the carbon footprint when gas in particular is used for electricity production. The Government has indicated that it is essential to develop as clear a picture as possible about the environmental impact of all fossil fuels including conventional and unconventional oil and gas through further research.

The Government believes that the production of shale gas is likely to be able to help the UK meet its carbon reduction targets by providing a 'bridge' to a low-carbon future and as we move away from the use of oil and coal. Further data to inform future assessments is expected to emerge from studies presently being conducted. Any emissions of methane from unconventional oil and gas operations, including leakage, will need to be taken into account in the UK's GHG inventory and count towards UK carbon budgets and international commitments on emissions reduction.

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Question: Where does the United Kingdom (UK) get the oil and gas it needs from?

Answer: The UK's production of conventional oil and gas from onshore and offshore fields helps to meet the demand for oil and gas. The extraction of the UK's onshore and offshore oil resources is important to meeting the UK's demand for oil. The UK also relies on imports of oil. These largely come from Norway as well as Nigeria, Russia and Algeria.

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Question: What are the uses and potential benefits of oil and gas?

Answer: Like with oil, the extraction of the UK's natural gas resources is important to meeting the UK's demand for gas. The production of conventional natural gas in the UK has been declining in the last few decades as reserves deplete, particular in the North Sea. As a result, evidence is showing that the UK is becoming increasingly reliant on imports of gas to meet its energy needs. Imports of gas via pipeline connections with Europe as well as seaborne deliveries of liquefied natural gas (LNG) now account for more than half of the UK's natural gas supply.


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Question: What are the potential uses and benefits of extracting conventional and unconventional oil and gas?

Answer: The oil and gas industry is well established in the United Kingdom (UK), having focused historically on exploiting conventional onshore and offshore (e.g. the North Sea) oil and gas resources. Oil and gas provide the energy source or raw material to make a wide range of products used in modern life. Oil is refined to produce petroleum for use as a transport fuel, whilst natural gas can be used as an energy source for electricity. Both oil and gas can also be used for domestic heating (e.g. heating houses, buildings and water) and are important fuels for industry. Oil is also used to make other by-products.

Shale oil can be used immediately following its extraction as a fuel or upgraded to meet refinery feedstock specifications. The refined products can be used for the same purposes as those derived from crude oil. Natural gas is the raw material for plastics.

The Government believes that shale gas extraction could provide an opportunity to extract further gas resources in the UK, rather than relying on imports. As a result it considered to be a promising new potential energy resource that could contribute significantly to the UK's energy security (security of supply) and economy.

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Question: What are the phases of onshore oil and gas activity?

Answer: Oil and gas development, like other mineral uses, is a temporary land use, although it can often take place over a long period of time. What an oil or gas site looks like will be different depending on each site. Some initial seismic work may be considered to be permitted development.

There are three phases of onshore oil and gas development (conventional and unconventional) being exploration, testing (appraisal) and production, as well as well decommissioning and subsequent restoration and aftercare.

The nature of the oil and gas exploration, appraisal and processing operations are very different from other mineral workings (such as sand and gravel extraction) and are significantly less intrusive in terms of their limited land-take. They can also be more flexible in their locational requirements.
Exploratory, appraisal or production phase of oil and gas development can only take place in areas where there is an oil and gas licence area in place.

Planning permission is required for each phase of oil and gas development from the relevant Minerals Planning Authority (MPA) which for the Island is the Isle of Wight Council.

Once the decision has been made to abandon a well, it will be made safe and the site infrastructure will be removed. The site will then be restored to its former condition or to enhanced or a more beneficial after use. A period of aftercare will commence following restoration to ensure that the land returns to a state that is the same or better than it was prior to operations commencing.

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Question: What does an oil or gas site look like?

Answer: What an oil or gas site looks like on the ground will depend on its location, its design and the type and phase of development taking place. The location of a site will be determined by the results of geological and seismic surveys which will determine where viable oil or gas deposits may be located. These will be used as a guide to determine potential locations of sites. An example of a size of an exploration site is 1 hectare.

Preparing a site involves ensuring that it can be properly accessed and that the area where the equipment will be placed has been properly graded. Drilling pads, roads and any other associated infrastructure will be built and maintained. The site constructed will be large enough to accommodate the drilling equipment and onsite water storage requirements, staff facilities, parking and space for vehicle deliveries and movements.

The well will be situated on a pad and will normally consist of a vertical well and potentially a small number of lateral extensions. The site will normally be vacated after the exploration stage. The appraisal phase may involve additional drilling at another site away from the exploration site or additional wells at the original exploration site.

A rig will be on site for the duration of the exploratory phase. It will also be used to drill any further boreholes which may be required within the appraisal and production stages. For both types of development, the production phase is likely to require a larger well pad than for previous stages. Production pads may be different sizes from location to location, depending on the specific geology and surface location. The level and number of HGV movements associated with a site will vary depending on the phase of the development and whether the site is a conventional or unconventional oil or gas site.

Typically, sites will contain a number of vertical wells and associated underground laterals on a site, which would be about two hectares (five acres) in size. Associated equipment such as pipelines and gas processing facilities may be required at the production stage and will be constructed subject to additional planning permissions. For oil sites, this may also include nodding donkeys. Once drilling has been completed, surface activity will diminish significantly as wells start to produce oil or gas.

When all of the oil or natural gas that can be recovered economically from a reservoir has been produced and production ceases, the facilities will be dismantled. Wells will be filled with cement and pipes cut off 3-6 feet below ground level. All surface equipment will be removed and all pads filled in. The sites will then be restored to their former use, or, in some circumstances, an appropriate new use.

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Question: What are oil and gas licences?

Answer: The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) which currently sits within the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is responsible for administering and issuing the oil and gas licensing system in the United Kingdom (UK). It is important to note that the Isle of Wight Council does not issue licences for oil and gas development. The OGA issue oil and gas licences periodically, giving a company or group of companies (a joint venture) exclusive rights to explore for, and develop, the resource in a particular geographic location. Licences allow a company to pursue a range of activities for conventional or unconventional oil or gas subject to planning permission and the necessary associated consents.

Applicants for licences can come from a single company or from a group of companies. The companies may be either British or foreign, but there are minimum residence requirements. Each application must therefore be supported by evidence that the applicant meets the minimum criteria. The licencing system in the UK has been active for over 40 years. The Isle of Wight has previously had a number of licence areas which were issued through previous rounds of licencing, however there are no areas currently under licence.

On 18 August 2015, the OGA announced that 27 onshore blocks from the 14th Onshore Oil and Gas Licensing Round will be formally offered to companies. If and when an operator is approved for each licence, the operator is given the responsibility for managing all activity in the licence area. No method for drilling is specified in the initial licence, as it only conveys exclusivity in an area for the licencee.

The OGA states that 'final consent to any well or well operations is dependent on confirmation that all other necessary permits and consents have been obtained'. Licences do not give consent for drilling or any other operations or development. Potential operators will also need to obtain the following before any development can commence:

• consent from the landowner;
• planning permission of each stage of development (explorations, appraisal and production) from the MPA;
• regulatory consents (such as from the Environment Agency); and
• any additional consents (including well consent) from the OGA for drilling operations.

The OGA will also consider the view of the Health and Safety Executive in reaching the final decision on licences. The granting of a licence of the exploration of the resource does not imply that planning permission would be granted for the extraction of the resource. Under licencing agreements, operators will agree to follow good oilfield practice.

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Question: What is current national planning policy on onshore oil and gas development?

Answer: Current national planning policy for onshore oil and gas relates to the following:

• National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF): sets out minerals planning policy for onshore oil and gas in England through a section on facilitating the sustainable use of minerals which includes oil and gas development; and
• National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG): a live online guidance document which should be read alongside the NPPF which includes a section within it on Planning for Hydrocarbon Extraction. - Related Link

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Question: What is the planning process for oil and gas development?

Answer: The Council as the Mineral Planning Authority on the Island will use the Island Plan: Isle of Wight Core Strategy (including Waste and Minerals) and Development Management Development Plan Document to determine any conventional or unconventional oil or gas development within the Council’s administrative boundaries. The plan includes safeguards for potential environmental, community or amenity impacts, against which any proposal for conventional or unconventional oil and gas development on the Island would be judged and considered on their own merits.

The Island Plan Core Strategy does not allocate any sites (site allocations) for onshore conventional or unconventional oil and gas development on the Island. As oil and gas resources are found much deeper in the ground than other mineral resources, there is no need to safeguard (protect) oil and gas deposits as they are less threatened by surface development compared to other mineral resources (such as sand and gravel) which can be sterilised by non-minerals development which tend to lie closer to the surface. As a result, oil and gas resources are not safeguarded on the Island.

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Question: What will a planning application for onshore oil and gas development entail?

Answer: Obtaining planning permission is one of the main regulatory requirements that oil and gas operators must meet before any conventional or unconventional oil and gas development can take place. A Minerals Planning Authority (MPA) will determine whether the activity is acceptable in planning terms at the particular location proposed, after consultation has taken place.

The planning system controls the development and use of land in the public interest and this includes:

• ensuring that new development is appropriate for its location taking account of the potential effects (including cumulative effects) of pollution on health, the natural environment or on general amenity; and
• the potential sensitivity of the area or proposed development to adverse effects from pollution.

In doing so, the focus will be on:

• whether the development itself is an acceptable use of the land;
• what the potential impacts of those uses (e.g. on communities and the environment) may be and any control (mitigation) measures; and
• health and safety issues or emissions themselves where these are subject to approval under other regimes.

However, it is important to note that with regards to planning considerations one of the primary tests is amenity (as opposed to for example public health). The planning process is one that assesses land use but does not duplicate other controls that are administered by other separate bodies, such as Public Health England or the Environmental Health Service of the council. There is often public expectation that the planning process exists to, and will identify every small impact. This is not the case. For example, planning does not control issues relating to pollution, but it can assess (where relevant) that suitable controls can be provided, but ultimately enforced by different bodies.

The DECC issued a Regulatory Roadmap in 2013 which is intended to be the first point of reference for anyone seeking to understand the permitting and planning permission process for onshore oil and gas in the United Kingdom . In some cases, minor initial seismic work may be considered to be permitted development and would not require planning permission from the MPA.

Before an application for oil or gas development can be valid, an oil and gas licence will need to be issued. Before any oil or gas development can take place, an operator must submit a planning application to the relevant MPA to seek planning permission for exploration, appraisal or production. There are three phases of oil and gas development and planning permission is required for each phase from the relevant MPA. Oil and gas developments are not considered to be a part of the major infrastructure regime which means all proposals will be dealt with by the local MPA. - Related Link

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Question: Where can I find links to the regulatory system.

Answer: After planning permission is granted, a number of other consents and licenses are required before development can commence. These include Environmental Permits, HSE notification and Well Consents. Government’s Regulatory Roadmap provides a basic, indicative overview of the process, highlighting key pieces of legislation and regulation, and identifying required actions and best practices at various stages. - Related Link

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Question: What is the role of the Minerals Planning Authority in the planning process?

Answer: The Isle of Wight Council is a Mineral Planning Authority (MPA). The relevant MPA has the responsibility of processing and determining any planning application for onshore oil and gas development within in their administrative area.

The MPA will determine whether a standard planning application or if an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) application is required. This will depend on the type and nature of the proposal. An operator can make a formal request to the MPA, under the Town and County Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011, for an EIA Screening Opinion. Preparation of an EIA will include:

• baseline and ongoing monitoring of key issues such as ecology, highway capacity, water, air, noise;
• an assessment of key issues including cumulative impacts;
• mitigation measures; and
• proposed monitoring.

The MPA will then screen a proposal. An EIA will be required if a proposal is considered to have a likely significant effect. An EIA is mandatory for all proposals for the extraction of more than 500 tonnes of oil or 500,000 cm3 of gas under schedule 1 of the Regulations.

Once a planning application for onshore oil and gas has been submitted to the MPA, it will be advertised, in line with the procedures set out in the council’s Statement of Community Involvement (SCI). This includes providing opportunities for interested parties to view the applications on line, and in council offices. This gives interested parties and local communities the opportunity to comment on any proposal.

Any proposal for oil and gas development will also include consultation with statutory consultees, such as Natural England, English Heritage and the Environment Agency (EA) and other interested parties such as the Health and Safety Executive and Public Health England. Appropriate bodies (including Parish or Town Councils) will be consulted on any planning application received which may impact their area.

It is the role of the MPA to consider representations received on a proposal, alongside the policies in the adopted Island Plan to determine whether a proposal for oil or gas development should be granted planning permission. The MPA is responsible for ensuring sites are restored through planning permissions granted, through monitoring conditions in relation to this issue.

The Council does not issue licences for oil and gas. The operator must also seek the relevant other associated consents (such as relevant environmental permits from the EA and consents from the Department of Energy and Climate Change).

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Question: What is the role of the Oil and Gas Authority in relation to oil and gas development?

Answer: The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has recently been established as an executive agency sitting with the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). The intention of the OGA is to work with government and industry to make sure that the UK gets the maximum economic benefit from its oil and gas reserves. The OGA is responsible for regulating offshore and onshore oil and gas operations in the UK which includes:

• issuing Petroleum Licences that give consent to drill and give operators exclusive rights to explore for and develop the resource;
• oil and gas exploration and production;
• oil and gas fields and wells;
• oil and gas infrastructure; and
• carbon capture and storage (CCS) licensing.

The Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil (OUGO) also sits within DECC and aims to promote the safe, responsible, and environmentally sound recovery of unconventional oil and gas resources. It has been set up specifically to co-ordinate the activity of the regulatory bodies and departments in the oil and gas industry. One of OUGO's main aims is to help interested parties understand the facts about unconventional oil and gas. - Related Link

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Question: What is the role of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in relation to oil and gas development?

Answer: The HSE monitors all phases of oil and gas operations from a well integrity, safety and site perspective. The HSE's main role in relation to both conventional and unconventional oil and gas developments is to regulate the health and safety risks to people from these operations. In doing this, the HSE works closely with the Environment Agency (EA) and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to ensure that all material considerations are addressed. When wells are abandoned, operators should inform the HSE to show that the process complies with Oil and Gas United Kingdom Guidelines.


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Question: What is the role of Public Health England in relation to oil and gas development?

Answer: The Health Protection Agency (HPA) is now part of Public Health England (PHE). PHE is an executive agency of the Department of Health. Public Health England (PHE) has reviewed the literature on the potential public health impacts of exposures to chemical and radioactive pollutants as a result of shale gas extraction. This led to the publication of a finalised report on potential public health impacts of exposures to chemical and radioactive pollutants as a result of the shale gas extraction in June 2014. The PHE have concluded that based on currently available evidence, the potential risks to public health in the vicinity of shale gas extraction sites are low if shale gas extraction is properly run and regulated.
- Related Link

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Question: If planning permission were to be granted for oil and gas development, how would it be monitored by the Minerals Planning Authority?

Answer: Planning permissions for any phase of oil and gas development (whether conventional or unconventional) granted by the Council will be subject to active monitoring. Monitoring helps to ensure that all development is compliant with relevant planning permissions (and associated conditions or legal agreements) granted. Monitoring involves unannounced visits to sites, where experienced officers assess compliance with the planning permissions (conditions and any associated legal agreements) granted. If required, the council has powers to take enforcement action to ensure compliance with planning permissions granted, where it is expedient to do so.


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Question: What happens after oil and gas development has been completed?

Answer: If it is concluded that there is no commercially viable oil or gas resources present or if the extraction of resources has been completed, then the well will be abandoned and dismantled, in accordance with the latest Oil and Gas United Kingdom Standards. Wells will be filled with cement and pipes cut off below ground level. All surface equipment will be removed and all pads filled in. The well will also be made safe. The site will then be restored to its former condition or to enhanced or a more beneficial afteruse. Planning permissions granted will include a condition (s) relating to restoration and aftercare, as appropriate.

Restoration involves returning the land to an acceptable condition. It may include restoration to its original use or to other land uses such as areas of nature conservation, agriculture, forestry or recreation. A period of aftercare will commence following restoration to ensure that the land returns to a state that is the same or better than it was prior to operations commencing. The successful completion of the restoration of the site will be subject to monitoring.

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Question: Where can I find out more information?

Answer: It is important to highlight that the Council are not responsible for identifying oil and gas licences. This responsibility lies with the Oil and Gas Authority which is an executive agency of the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Therefore, if you have any more detailed questions on the licences, the OGA are the responsible authority. In the event that a proposal is submitted for planning permission in a licence block, local communities and interested parties would be consulted on the proposal (in line with our Statement of Community Involvement).

Further information relating to oil and gas from other bodies can be found at the following weblinks:

• Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC): http://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-of-energy-climate-change
• Environment Agency (EA): https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/environment-agency
• British Geological Survey (BGS): http://www.bgs.ac.uk/shalegas/
• United Kingdom Onshore Operators Oil and Gas (UKOOG): http://www.ukoog.org.uk/
• The Royal Society: http://royalsociety.org/policy/projects/shale-gas-extraction/
• Health and Safety Executive (HSE): http://www.hse.gov.uk/ - Related Link

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Question: What is shale oil?

Answer: Shale oil is unconventional oil produced from oil shale rock fragments through the use of processes such as pyrolysis, hydrogenation or thermal dissolution. These processes convert the organic matter within the rock into synthetic oil or gas. Shale resources are likely to be found at depths of 1,000-2,000 metres below the surface. The resulting oil can be used immediately as a fuel or upgraded to meet refinery feedstock specifications and can be used for the same purposes as those derived from crude oil.

Unconventional oil is extracted using techniques different to the conventional (oil well) method. The potential for the extraction of shale oil in the wider south east of England has recently been investigated by the British Geological Survey (BGS). - Related Link

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Question: Does oil or gas development cause contamination, subsidence or seismic activity? If so, how will this be prevented?

Answer: The risk of contamination of ground, surface or soils will need to be appropriately addressed in any proposal for oil or gas development. This will include on-going management as part of any development. Mitigation measures which are used to prevent contamination include lining of wells, contained drainage systems and monitoring.

The potential for unconventional oil or gas development to cause subsidence has been raised as a concern when the hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking' process is used. Globally, there are no documented cases of fracturing operations causing subsidence large enough to cause damage at the surface. Subsidence can happen when rock is compressed and collapses in on itself. But shale rock is not easily compressed, so subsidence is unlikely. Unlike coal mining, shale oil or gas production does not remove large quantities of rock from underground which can cause subsidence.

Another environmental concern relating to hydraulic fracturing is its potential to result in seismic activity. As with subsidence, there are no documented cases of global shale gas operations (at any phase of development) causing tremors large enough to cause damage to infrastructure on the surface or injury. This includes the small (2.2 magnitude) earth tremor which occurred near Blackpool in April 2011. This tremor led to the Government's Chief Scientific Advisor commissioning the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering (RSRAE) carrying out an independent review of the scientific and engineering evidence relating to the technical aspects of the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking'. This report considered the issue of subsidence and seismic activity.

Investigations were subsequently completed and concluded that the seismic events may have been caused by the unconventional gas extraction activities nearby. As a result, a series of safeguards were recommended to prevent a similar situation occurring in the future. In December 2012, the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) announced that exploratory hydraulic fracturing for shale gas could resume, subject to new controls to mitigate the risks of seismic activity. The DECC also concluded that 'appropriate controls are available to mitigate the risks of seismic activity'. The new safeguards are required by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) (which has been established and is a part of the DECC) for all hydraulic fracturing operations. The OGA will also ensure that appropriate monitoring and control arrangements are in place to regulate seismic activity caused by hydraulic fracturing and agreed, before consent is granted. Operators will also be required to:

• have procedures in place to monitor, report and mitigate seismic activity;
• undertake a prior assessment of the geological risks including the location of known faults;
• submit a Hydraulic Fracturing Plan (HFP) to the OGA, including documenting information at all stages of the development; and
• undertake detailed risk assessments which are required as part of the OGA frack consent. This will also describe the control and mitigation measures for fracture containment and for any potential induced seismicity.

Where hydraulic fracturing takes place, 'real time' seismic monitoring will be used to operate a 'traffic-light' warning protocol under which operations will be halted and pressures immediately reduced if a seismic event of magnitude greater than 0.5 is detected. This magnitude is well below the energy level that could be felt at the surface, and the protocol would enable a review of the possible causes of the event and allow further steps to be taken to prevent the occurrence of larger events. - Related Link

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Question: How are emissions considered through the planning and regulatory processes?

Answer: In the UK, all oil and gas operators must minimise the release of gases as a condition of their licence from the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA).

Planning permissions and associated permits and consents for oil and gas developments may require monitoring or the imposition of further limits. In particular, any planning application would be required to minimise the release of emissions to the atmosphere, in accordance with the policies and provisions of the adopted Island Plan Core Strategy (2012). Ultimately, emissions from oil and gas development will be determined by the design and planning conditions associated with each particular development.

Operators must also submit a Waste Management Plan to the Environment Agency (EA). In it, operators will state what waste gases they expect and how they will minimise them. The EA may carry out spot-check monitoring and unannounced inspections depending on the risk to the environment posed by a site.

Operators must also monitor air quality and share their results to the relevant environmental regulator (the Environment Agency in England) or, when appropriate, to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Operators must be able to show that their activities, including flaring during exploration, have not led to air pollution at levels higher than those set out in their environmental permits. When it can't be economically used, natural gas must be 'flared' to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. In the UK, natural gas may only be 'vented' (released into the air) when necessary for safety. - Related Link

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Question: How does the planning process link to other regulatory regimes?

Answer: Oil and gas operations in the United Kingdom (UK), as with other industrial activities, are regulated under a number of different stringent regimes. National planning practice guidance clearly states that these regimes are separate but complementary to the planning process. The Government believes that the existing regulation systems are fit for purpose.

Some issues which may be of importance and relevance to the planning process may be covered by other regulatory regimes. This may include issues such as:

• mitigation of seismic risks;
• design, construction and integrity of wells;
• operation of surface equipment on the well pad;
• chemical content of hydraulic fracturing fluid;
• flaring or venting of any gas produced as part of the exploratory phase;
• final off-site disposal of water and mining waste; and
• well decommissioning, completion of development and restoration.

In such instances, the council will assume that other regulatory regimes operate effectively . Whilst these issues may be put before the council as part of the planning process, the council will not need to carry out it’s own assessment on issues as they can rely on the assessment of other regulatory bodies. However, before granting planning permission, the mineral planning authority (MPA) will need to be satisfied that these issues can and will be adequately addressed by taking the advice from the relevant regulatory body. This is why it is important that statutory consultees are consulted on minerals planning applications.

Following exploration, a well is likely to be suspended and abandoned for a period of time. Health and Safety Legislation requires (with regards to its well design and construction) that, so far as reasonably practicable, there is no unplanned escape of fluids. It is important to note that the UK's regulatory regime is very different to the regime operated in the United States where unconventional oil and gas production is already taking place.

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Question: How will any waste generated through oil and gas development be managed?

Answer: It is likely that each stage of oil and gas development will generate some form of waste which will require management or disposal. Waste generated may include:

• drill cuttings from drilling activities; and
• flowback water.

Some of the waste generated, such as drill cuttings, will require disposal (e.g. to landfill). In the UK, flowback water will be collected and contained on-site in closed tanks. Water may be subject to pre-treatment on site prior to conventional water treatments. In some instances, flowback water may be suitable for re-use on site following treatment. Where water cannot be reused, the water will need to be discharged to the sewer system or transported to a waste water treatment works for treatment.

Flowback water associated with both conventional and unconventional developments may contain minerals (such as salts) and Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) at low levels. Procedures for the management of NORM are well established in the UK.

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Question: How will key issues be considered?

Answer: The location, scale and character of any future proposal for oil or gas development will only be known when a planning application is submitted to the mineral planning authority (MPA) for consideration. At this stage its potential impacts (including impacts on health, the environment, local amenity) will be fully considered. Other issues such as on public safety, site storage facilities and waste disposal may also be important considerations.

The potential impact of oil and gas development on water resources is a very important consideration even though this issue is covered under other regulatory regimes. The MPA will take a view on the potential impacts on water resources associated with any proposal, taking into account regulatory systems already in place on this issue as well as the advice and guidance given by the Environment Agency (EA) at the planning application stage.

The potential impact of a proposal on designations will be taken into account in detail at the planning application stage. The Government has recently announced new planning guidance on unconventional oil and gas development in areas of designation such as National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) and heritage sites. There are also policies in the adopted Island Plan Core Strategy in relation to developments and designated areas which will be used to guide whether planning permission should be given in such locations. The restoration of an oil or gas site is an essential part of the planning process. The potential impact on property prices is not an issue which can be taken into account by a MPA in decision making.

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Question: How will local communities be consulted on any planning application submitted for oil or gas development on the Isle of Wight?

Answer: Public consultation forms an important and essential part of every minerals planning application (including oil and gas) on the Island. The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) Order 2013 includes changes to the notification of landowners when development is proposed. The views of interested parties will be taken into account when the mineral planning authority (MPA) grants or refuses planning permission.

For unconventional oil and gas development, the oil and gas industry's own Charter sets out that communities must be engaged from the very start of any planning application process. The main aim of the charter is to ensure open and transparent communications between industry, interested groups and the communities in which they operate to promote a greater understanding and involvement by communities. The Charter outlines the steps the industry will take to mitigate concerns around safety, noise, dust, truck movements and other environmental issues. The charter also covers community benefits. - Related Link

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Question: How will planning applications be determined?

Answer: The mineral planning authority (MPA) will rigorously assess and scrutinize all proposals for oil and gas development within its administrative area. All proposals for oil and gas development will be considered on their individual merits and will only be granted planning permissions where they are considered to be acceptable and in accordance with the adopted policies of the Island Plan, taking into account relevant material considerations.

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Question: How will planning applications be submitted?

Answer: The mineral planning authority (MPA) will determine whether a standard planning application or if an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) application is required through screening. It is unlikely that an EIA will be required for exploratory drilling operations that do not involve hydraulic fracturing, unless the well pad is located on a site that is unusually sensitive to limited disturbance occurring over the short period involved. However, all planning applications will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

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Question: Is the extraction of shale oil or gas safe?

Answer: Oil and gas operations in the United Kingdom (UK), as with other industrial activities, are regulated under a number of different stringent regimes. All oil and gas development on the Isle of Wight will require planning permission when issues of safety and subsequent monitoring will be addressed. All operators must comply with a comprehensive set of health and safety regulations on well design, construction, operation and monitoring to minimise the risk of leaks. Like all oil and gas operations, drilling must be done in accordance with best industry practice and standards established by the industry body, the UK Onshore Oil and Gas, in consultation with the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the Environment Agency (EA) and Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) have issued documentation on safety and design. The EA has published a number of guidance documents and regulations it refers to which have been designed to reduce risks to people and the environment to a level that is as low as reasonably practical. The HSE also monitors oil and gas operations from a safety perspective. Public Health England (PHE) have investigated potential public health impacts of exposures to chemical and radioactive pollutants as a result of shale gas extraction and have concluded that based on current evidence, that the potential risks to public health in the vicinity of shale gas extraction sites are low if shale gas extraction is properly run and regulated.

The Government's Chief Scientific Advisor commissioned the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering (RSRAE) to carry out an independent review of the scientific and engineering evidence relating to the technical aspects of the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing in the United Kingdom. The main conclusion of the RSRAE report was that the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing for shale gas can and could be managed effectively in the UK provided that operational best practices are implemented and enforced through regulation. The findings have been accepted by the Government. - Related Link

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Question: What else is required following planning permission being granted and before development can commence?

Answer: Following exploration, if operators then wish to go into production (to actually extract gas), the company must gain:

• a new planning permission from the relevant mineral planning authority;
• a Field Development Consent from the Department of Energy and Climate Change; and
• an Environmental Permit from the Environment Agency.

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Question: What is shale gas?

Answer: Shale gas is relevant to the Isle of Wight as the Island does not have the geology to support other unconventional resources. Shale gas, as the name suggests, is found within organic-rich shale beds.

Shale gas is produced directly from the layered source rock which makes it different to conventional extraction which is extracted from reservoirs. Shale gas is mostly comprised of methane. Shale gas is found far deeper in the ground than conventional oil and gas reservoirs and therefore requires deeper wells and, in some cases, lateral well extensions into the shale. It is uncertain whether the Isle of Wight has any potential for shale gas at this stage.

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Question: What is hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking'?

Answer: As shale is less permeable (or easily penetrated by liquids or gases), it requires a lot more effort to extract the hydrocarbons from the rock. However, recent technological advancements have resulted in horizontal drilling which has made tapping into shale deposits more financially viable. Hydraulic fracturing is a technique used in the extraction of oil or gas from 'shale' rock formations by injecting water at high pressure. The technique uses fluid, usually water, which is pumped at high pressure into the rock to create narrow fractures.

Hydraulic fracturing is a method used to stimulate the oil or gas either to begin or continue flowing. This does not mean it has become an unconventional well as the nature of the hydrocarbon accumulation has not changed. The wells are cased with perforated steel tubes along the horizontal section of the well. Once the fractures have been created, other materials such as sand are pumped into them to keep the fractures open, allowing the resources to be extracted. The water used in the hydraulic fracturing process normally contains small quantities of other substances to improve the efficiency of the process. All chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process require pre approval from the Environment Agency. With regards to gas, once gas has been allowed to migrate into a well, it displaces the water forcing some of it back up the well to the surface. This is known as 'flow back' fluid.

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Question: What monitoring is undertaken by the regulators?

Answer: In addition to the monitoring undertaken by the Minerals Planning Authority, the regulators also monitor oil and gas sites. Any Environmental Permits granted by the Environment Agency (EA) will also be subject to separate monitoring The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will also monitor the operations once drilling has commenced. Oil and gas operators also have a duty to monitor the drilling process as part of the development and will often have to report this to the EA or HSE if this is required.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is in discussions with the industry on the introduction of arrangements to ensure that, for a defined period after abandonment of a well, the operator will conduct suitable monitoring the groundwater and the air in the vicinity of the abandoned well.

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Question: What is the role of the Environment Agency (EA) in relation to oil and gas development?

Answer: The EA is a public body whose responsibility is to protect the environment in England. The Isle of Wight is covered by the EA's South East region offices. Before any oil or gas operation commences in the UK, operators must submit details of their plans to the EA for assessment of risks and the acceptability of issuing permits.

The EA are a statutory consultee in the planning process for planning applications for onshore oil and gas exploration, appraisal or production. In England, onshore oil and gas exploratory activities require Environmental Permits issued under the Environmental Permitting Regulations (2010) and other permissions from the EA as environmental regulator, depending on the methods used and the geology of the site. The EA advise operators to undertake pre-application discussions on the content of planning applications when applying for Environmental Permits. An Environmental Permit will be required by the EA for the different phases of oil and gas development. This will require the operator to produce and implement a Waste Management Plan. There are different types of environmental permits.

Environmental Regulations require a notice to be served on the EA to 'construct a boring for the purposes of searching for or extracting minerals'. Public consultation on all Environment Permits applications received by the EA associated with oil and gas development will take place when the permit application is being considered.

The chemical content of hydraulic fracturing fluid is also covered by the Environmental Permitting regime as operators are obliged to inform the EA of all chemicals that they may use as part of any hydraulic fracturing process. The EA has powers to require full disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing in England and Wales and assesses the hazards presented by hydraulic fracturing fluid additives on a case by case basis. Environmental aspects of oil and gas operations are monitored by the EA as regulator, in particular when permits are granted.

The EA issued draft technical guidance for onshore oil and gas exploratory operations in 2013. The technical guidance sets out what environmental regulations apply to the onshore oil and gas exploration sector and what operators need to do to comply with those regulations. Further technical guidance has also been issued by the EA on specific areas (such as the considerations for quantifying fugitive methane releases from shale gas operations). The EA issued a joint working strategy with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in 2012 . This sets out how both organisations will work together to ensure a joined up approach and that there is appropriate monitoring and inspection of oil and gas operations. - Related Link

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Question: What is the current Government position on unconventional oil and gas development?

Answer: The Government considers that shale oil and gas represent promising new potential energy resources which could contribute significantly to the United Kingdom (UK), reducing reliance on imported oil and gas as well as supporting growth and providing employment. The Government also hopes that shale gas will become a significant part of the future energy mix for the UK.

The Government established the Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil (OUGO) in December 2012 to develop the unconventional oil and gas industry. OUGO is part of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). The Government has prepared planning policy guidance which considers onshore oil and gas development. In May 2014, the British Geological Survey (BGS) also issued an assessment of the Weald Basin which provides the closest (in location terms) indicator of resources that may be found. - Related Link

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Question: Would there be public consultation?

Answer: The mineral planning authority (MPA) will advertise and consult local communities and interested parties, including the statutory consultees (these are the Environment Agency, Natural England and Historic England) where relevant, as part of the planning application process. Engagement with local communities and interested parties is also an essential element of the planning process. The council’s principles for consultation can be found in its Statement of Community Involvement. - Related Link

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Question: Would there be pre-application discussions?

Answer: Pre-application discussions are encouraged by the council in advance of any planning application for oil and gas development being submitted. Operators are also encouraged to undertake pre-application discussions on the likely nature of any planning application with other key consultees, e.g. the Environment Agency (EA). - Related Link

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Question: What is involved in the exploration, appraisal and production of oil and gas?

Answer: It is important to note that the likely future interest in exploration and production of oil and gas is highly dependent on our energy requirements, the price of oil and gas and getting the necessary consents such as planning permission and Environmental Permits. Production of unconventional gas could help to reduce UK's energy prices. This has been the case in the United States (US) where unconventional gas extraction has helped to reduce the price of gas. However, the actual impacts on energy prices in the UK are not currently known as the industry is still emerging. It is also important to note that the energy market is quite different in the US than in Europe.

The economic benefits of oil and gas development can be seen at both a local and national level. The local economic impact is considered to be significant in supporting local services, associated businesses and direct employment. The potential for providing a local supply of resources, rather than relying on imports, will also have economic benefits. Proponents of shale oil and gas extraction point to the economic benefits from the extraction of large amounts of formerly inaccessible oil and gas resources.


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Question: What considerations are made regarding water supply?

Answer: When proposing a site, developers must ensure that there is sufficient water and infrastructure for their operations. This will either come from the mains or from surface or ground water (subject to approval). The volume of water required will depend on each individual site and the nature of the processes which are to be undertaken.

Water companies will assess the amount of water available before agreeing to supply an operator. If the operator applies for a licence to extract water, it will be granted by the Environment Agency (EA) only where a sustainable water supply is available. This is a particularly important issue on the Isle of Wight as the south east of England is considered to be an area of water stress, i.e. where there is high demand for supply.

Before any gas or oil operation starts in the UK, operators must submit details of their plans to the EA for assessment of risks and the acceptability of issuing permits. The UK regulatory regime already ensures that hazardous substances are not allowed to enter groundwater. In the UK, the regulations prevent flowback fluid contaminating water. The operator must obtain an Environmental Permit for the disposal of flowback fluid from the EA and have an agreed Waste Management Plan in place. There is an opportunity to reduce the overall water consumption associated with oil and gas
developments by recycling and re-using the flowback water in certain instances.

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Question: Are there any tax breaks associated with the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process?

Answer: The Government has recently announced tax breaks for shale gas. These tax breaks are similar to those breaks which are already in place for renewable energy. It is important to note that any potential financial schemes or incentives associated with oil or gas development will not be taken into account when planning applications are being considered and determined by the mineral planning authority (MPA). This is because such funding sits outside of the planning process. It is therefore not considered to be relevant to any proposals for oil and gas development.

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