Ineos has increased its bet on UK shale gas by acquiring a portfolio of onshore exploration and production licences from Engie, the French energy group, in the latest sign of momentum behind efforts to bring US-style fracking to Britain. Geological surveys suggest the UK has significant amounts of shale gas and the government is broadly supportive of efforts to extract it. However, the extent and commercial viability of the resources will only become clear once drilling begins. Cuadrilla and Third Energy are both the focus of protests by activists worried about the environmental impact of fracking, which involves pumping large volumes of water, sand and chemicals under the ground at high pressure to release trapped gas. The Engie portfolio includes minority interests in 15 licences across Yorkshire, Cheshire and the East Midlands, seven in which Ineos already owns a stake and others where the partner is Cuadrilla or IGas. No financial details were given. Engie’s exit reflects scepticism among many large energy companies about the prospects for UK shale. Britain is much more densely populated than the US — making it harder to find socially acceptable places to drill — and its land ownership laws provide less economic incentive for local communities to support fracking. For Engie, the disposal is part of its wider withdrawal from oil and gas in favour of power generation and consumer energy. The company is in talks to sell North Sea and African exploration and production assets to Neptune, backed by private equity funds Carlyle Group and CVC Capital Partners, according to people involved.
FT 9th March 2017 read more »
Times 10th March 2017 read more »