Total in bid to locate UK shale gas

Braintree and Witham Times: Fracking has already led to widespread protests in the UK Fracking has already led to widespread protests in the UK

Environmental campaigners Greenpeace today criticised reported plans by Total to explore for shale gas in the UK.

The Financial Times said Total would become the first major oil company to become involved in the controversial projects in a big boost for Government efforts to create a US-style fracking boom in Britain.

It said a deal would be announced on Monday that would see Total join a shale gas exploration licence in the Midlands currently operated by eCORP of the US. The other partners in the project are Dart Energy and UK-listed Igas and Egdon Resources, it added.

Lawrence Carter, Greenpeace's climate campaigner, said: " Total, a French company who can't frack in their own country because the French government has stopped the French countryside being ripped up, have now turned their sights on the UK countryside where the UK Government seem happy to allow the industrialisation of our green and pleasant land.

"The UK Government seem deaf to the risks fracking poses to our environment and local communities and are pushing ahead with selling off two thirds of Britain for drilling without a public mandate."

Anti-fracking campaigners say that the process, which involves injecting water, sand and chemicals underground at high pressure into shale rock to release the oil and gas trapped inside, has detrimental effects on the environment.

But ministers insist it should go ahead, referring to the economic benefits it has brought the US, and saying it can bring growth, jobs and energy security to the UK.

Last month, energy minister Michael Fallon cited the growth of production in the US which was having an ''enormous impact'' on household bills.

He said: "It has the potential to have an impact here. It can reduce our dependency on liquid natural gas.

''We face the prospect of having to import 70% of our gas by 2030 if we have not found any shale by then.''

Fracking has proved to be hugely controversial, sparking protests in areas including Balcombe in Sussex.

A map published by the Department for Energy and Climate Change has shown huge areas of England and Scotland, and parts of Wales, where shale gas reserves could be found.

No one from Total was available to comment.

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