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NEWS: Canadian company owns stake in major shale-gas find in the UK

The Guardian UK reports, “A leading UK shale gas explorer (iGas) has said estimates of its resources in north-west England (in Cheshire) are considerably higher than previously thought and could meet gas consumption in Britain for decades. …IGas is due to start a drilling programme this year, which the company said would lead to further refinement of the estimates. …The announcement comes after promises by the chancellor, George Osborne, to give tax breaks to the shale gas industry, and the lifting of restrictions last December on the controversial practice of ‘fracking’ – pumping vast quantities of water, sand and chemicals into shale rock to extract gas.”

“The new estimates from iGas were met with scepticism from green groups, which have opposed the development of shale gas in the UK partly on the grounds that it would squeeze out investment in renewable energy. Doug Parr, Greenpeace chief scientist and policy director, said: ‘Deciding how much gas there is based on the word of a shale gas firm is like buying a secondhand car without lifting up the bonnet and asking the price. iGas may be keen to impress its investors in China but these figures are just hype. The world’s largest oil and gas firms were attracted to Poland by similar claims – now they are rushing to leave.'”

The Globe and Mail today adds, “IGas, which is 20 per cent owned by Calgary-based Nexen Inc., has been drilling in the Bowland basin, a large rock formation that stretches across much of England. …The (Cameron) government has taken a new interest in shale gas, offering tax breaks to fracking companies and promising cut-rate gas prices to communities near drilling sites as an incentive to get them onside. ‘I want Britain to tap into new sources of low-cost energy such as shale gas’, George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said during his last budget speech.”

In Europe, France and Bulgaria have banned fracking, while the Czech Republic, Romania, and the German state of North Rhine Westphalia have implemented moratoriums. Numerous European groups have been active in opposing fracking, including Food and Water Europe, No Fracking Ireland, Friends of the Earth UK, STOPHF of the Czech Republic, and Ecologistas en Accion from Spain. While it appears unlikely at this point that the United Kingdom would ban fracking, the Canadian-share in iGas could raise interesting questions down-the-road with respect to investor-state provisions in the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which expected to be announced later this month.

For more, please read:
NEWS: LNG terminals planned for Guysborough, NS to export to Europe, India
UPDATE: New report says CETA would threaten fracking bans
NEWS: Cameron government approves fracking in the UK
UPDATE: One-third of Members of European Parliament vote against fracking