LONDON, Aug. 18 (UPI) -- With a potential for growth in the fledgling shale sector, the British government said Tuesday it was expecting bidders for new onshore oil and gas acreage.
"As part of our long-term plan to build a more resilient economy, create jobs and deliver secure energy supplies, we continue to back our onshore oil and gas industry and the safe development of shale gas in the U.K.," British Energy Minister Nick Bourne said in a statement.
More than 100 sites could be available after review of environmental consultation laws. The industry's regulator, Oil and Gas Authority, said around two dozen of those were formally on the auction block already.
The government cautioned that no licenses were issued. Instead, the companies behind the 27 sites released will be given formal word once the review of the other sites is completed.
Last week, the British Geological Survey started a baseline environmental survey in Yorkshire, where Third Energy U.K. Gas Ltd. has submitted an application to use hydraulic fracturing at one well site.
BGS has started environmental surveys in Lancashire, where shale pioneer Cuadrilla Resources aims to explore for natural gas using hydraulic fracturing, known also as fracking.
With natural gas imports expected to account for 76 percent of total demand by 2030, the British government said it was fast-tracking the permit processes for shale exploration.
"It's important we press on and get shale moving, while maintaining strong environmental controls," Bourne said. "Investment in shale could reach $51.5 billion and support 64,000 jobs, creating financial security for hardworking people and their families, while providing a cost-efficient bridge to lower carbon energy use."
Shale gas is in its infancy in the country. Environmental groups have expressed reservations about the emergence of shale exploration. BGS said surveys conducted before drilling begins could allay public concerns.