British Energy Secretary Ed Davey announced Thursday that the government was lifting a ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of shale natural gas resources in light of new risk controls. Shale gas, he said, could contribute "significantly" to British energy security.
The British Geological Survey in a 2010 study said the shale gas reserve potential could be as large as 5.3 trillion cubic feet.
Fracking operations were suspended after Cuadrilla Resources last year reported minor tremors associated with natural gas operations in the country.
"Cuadrilla has been asked to conduct ... an assessment in relation to their proposals for further exploration work in Lancashire," Davey said in a statement.
Davey said new risk controls are based on a "traffic light" system. Cuadrilla's would start at a magnitude 0.5, "far below a perceptible surface event but larger than the expected level generated by the fracturing of the rock."
Cuadrilla said in a statement that it believed there was a layer of gas about 1-mile thick under Lancashire. It said it would work closely with the British government to resume work next year.