Welsh Government to consult on new petroleum extraction powers - but rule out fracking licences

New Welsh powers to license onshore petroleum from the UK Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) come into force on the 1st October 2018.

This was set out in the Wales Act 2017.

The Welsh Government have announced plans to consult on which approach to take to the new licensing powers.

On announcing the consultation yesterday, Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths said:

“The new petroleum licensing powers provide an opportunity to consider what should be our approach to petroleum extraction in Wales, for now and future generations.   As a new area of responsibility for the Welsh Government, we commissioned a review of the evidence in 2017 to inform our future policy towards petroleum extraction. 

“This consultation seeks views on that evidence and our proposed policy on petroleum extraction including fracking.

“Our aim is to sustainably manage our natural resources in a way which meets the needs of Wales today, without compromising the needs of future generations.  To meet our climate change targets, our long-term aim is to remove fossil fuels from our energy mix while minimising economic impact and providing clarity for investors and encouraging them to invest in lower carbon alternatives.”

In theory, current licence applications are still decided by Westminster, although in practice for devolution, the UK government has not awarded any new licences in Wales or Scotland since the act came into force and it is unlikely to do so before October.

The consultation is set to run until September, however the Government are already ruling out future licences for fracking, which the Welsh Government have opposed for several years.  A block of the practice – known as a moratorium – has already been in place since 2015, and councils need to refer any planning decisions to the Welsh Government.  However, the block does not apply to exploratory drilling, which has controversially been granted permission in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Fracking is a technique which seeks to extract gas and oil from shale rock, which it fractured by high pressure drilling and then injected with water, sand and chemicals.   Supporters claim that the practice will lead to cheaper energy costs, as well as lessening reliance on imported fuels and bringing jobs to the area.  Critics claim evidence shows that fracking pollutes the air and drinking water, hurts communities, worsens climate change, and is linked to earthquakes.
The Cabinet Secretary said:

“By not undertaking any new petroleum licensing in Wales or supporting applications for hydraulic fracturing petroleum license consents, we will be taking a small, yet important step towards a decarbonised future in Wales and will be contributing to the global movement away from fossil fuels.”