"We must explore the benefits and investment shale gas may bring but that should not come at the expense of the environment," British Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said in a statement Thursday.
Last year, the British Geological survey estimated shale basins in the country may hold more than 1.3 quadrillion cubic feet of natural gas, a level the government said could help an economy with natural gas imports on pace to increase from 45 percent of demand in 2011 to 76 percent by 2030.
The British Department of Energy and Climate Change said it was providing $3.3 million for companies that come up with new ways to produce or explore shale gas, including environmental management and reservoir monitoring.
Energy companies use a drilling procedure called hydraulic fracturing, known also as fracking, which involves injecting trace amounts of chemicals and abrasives underground to coax hydrocarbons out of shale. Environmental groups worry some of those chemicals may harm public health.
"Over the past year, the scientific evidence has allowed us to conclude that shale production can be managed effectively as long as best practices are implemented and enforced," Davey said.