LONDON, May 24 (UPI) -- A British geological organization said it was working to set an environmental baseline to serve as a basis for weighing the impacts of hydraulic fracturing.
The British Geological Survey said its work with its university counterparts would set a baseline for water and air quality, as well as seismic activity, associated with a shale gas reserve in North Yorkshire. Third Energy U.K. Gas Ltd. submitted an application last year to use hydraulic fracturing, known also as fracking, at one well site.
BGS already started environmental surveys in Lancashire, where shale pioneer Cuadrilla Resources aimed to explore for natural gas using hydraulic fracturing. Cuadrilla was the target of widespread protests that grew out of its early fracking campaign in the region.
BGS 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 geological agency said it would continue with its surveys in parallel with shale natural gas development at the Yorkshire site to see what happens before, during and after fracking campaigns.
"If hydraulic fracturing goes ahead then understanding the baseline is a critical first step in ensuring it is carried out safely," BGS Director of Science Rob Ward said in a statement. "Our independent monitoring will enable this and allow more informed decisions to be made."
Third Energy this week secured consent from British officials, describing the consideration as more of an added burden of responsibility than a victory. Rasik Valand, the company's chief executive, said the permit so far is to see under what conditions gas can flow from the site.
"Don't expect to see any activities on site in the near future," he said in a statement.