Aurora Energy drops application to drill at Altcar Moss in Lancashire

A British fracking company has vowed to challenge the effective ban on shale gas projects after withdrawing its application for two wells in Lancashire.

Aurora Energy Resources blamed the government’s “de facto ban on shale gas activity” for its decision to drop an application to frack at Altcar Moss in west Lancashire.

The Aberdeen-based gas company has reignited an industry row with the government over its decision late last year to follow the Scottish government’s lead by ending fracking in England.

Ian Roche, the managing director of Aurora, said it was “unsurprising” that council officers in Lancashire felt unable to make a decision on the application, which it submitted months before the government imposed a fracking moratorium in November.

The government told the industry it would not agree to any future fracking in England “until compelling new evidence is provided” that it was safe, after a series of earth tremors in the Lancashire area raised concerns.

Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, involves pumping water, chemicals and sand underground at high pressure to fracture shale rock and release trapped oil and gas. The process often results in seismic activity, but the industry has claimed that the tremors are too weak to pose a threat to public safety.

Roche said Aurora plans to “address this issue” with the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

“It is clear from recent comments by the minister of state for energy that the government considers the ‘moratorium’ on hydraulic fracturing to be a de facto ban on shale gas activity in the UK. It is therefore perhaps unsurprising that the council officers have felt unable to determine this application,” Roche said.

“It is our view that there is no scientific or public policy justification for the current ‘moratorium’ and Aurora has compiled a body of compelling evidence showing it to be an extreme example of asymmetric regulation, and out of line with the regulation of public amenity impacts across other industries,” he added.

The de facto fracking ban was welcomed by green groups last year as a watershed moment for environmental campaigners and local communities which have opposed shale gas fracking in the UK for years.

A government spokesman was not immediately available for comment.