LONDON, March 21 (UPI) -- The British government aims to ensure that local communities benefit from any shale natural gas potential, British Energy Minister John Hayes said.
The British government lifted a ban on hydraulic fracturing after minor tremors halted preliminary work in 2011. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said the government was offering tax breaks to companies looking to explore for natural gas in the country.
The British government in December created an Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil. Hayes said the office would work to ensure local communities benefit from shale gas development.
"Local communities must be able to benefit from any shale gas development in their area and the new office will look into how this can be properly achieved," he said in a statement.
The office would work with the energy industry to make sure programs are aligned with government safety and environmental concerns. Critics of shale gas campaigns have expressed concern about groundwater contamination and other risks.
The British Geological Survey in a 2010 study said the shale gas reserve potential could be 5.3 trillion cubic feet, though Davey said it's too early to make firm assessments.
"We know that there are large shale resources in the U.K. but we do not yet know how much of this unconventional energy is recoverable," he said.