Press release

New Office to look at community benefits for shale gas projects

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Announcement by the Chancellor of DECC’s new Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil (OUGO).

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Press notice: 13/029

Community benefit from shale gas exploration will be one of the priorities for DECC’s new Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil (OUGO), the Chancellor announced today.

OUGO has been created within DECC to promote the safe, responsible and environmentally sound recovery of the UK’s unconventional reserves of gas and oil.

Engaging with industry and communities, OUGO will bring forward proposals by the summer to ensure people benefit from shale gas production if there are future developments in their area.

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey said:

“We know that there are large shale resources in the UK, but we do not yet know how much of this unconventional energy is recoverable.

“This new Office will help us to ensure that we can make the most of our natural resources, whilst protecting the environment, safeguarding the public and ensuring local communities feel some benefit from hosting developments.”

Energy Minister John Hayes said:

“Shale gas is an exciting opportunity and has the potential to create jobs and support UK energy security. Local communities must be able to benefit from any shale gas development in their area and the new Office will look into how this can be properly achieved.

“I’m also clear that shale gas operations should be safe and secure to people and the environment and OUGO will play an important role helping to co-ordinate our already robust regulatory regime.”

As announced by the Chancellor today, the Government will also:

  • Produce technical planning guidance on shale gas by July 2013 to provide clarity around planning for shale gas during the important exploration phase for the industry;
  • As the shale gas industry develops we will ensure an effective planning system is in place and by the end of the year will produce guidance for the industry to ensure that the planning system is properly aligned with the licensing regime and regulatory regimes, principally; health and safety; and environmental protection;
  • Keep under review whether the largest shale gas projects should have the option to apply to the major infrastructure regime.

Notes for editors

  1. The creation of the Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil was announced by the Government in December.

  2. OUGO’s objectives will include:

Making the most of our natural resources

  • Ensure we make the best use of our natural resources by encouraging the development of the unconventional gas and oil industry in the UK in a way that maximises the benefits to the economy in terms of improving security of supply, creating jobs, growth and investment, and supporting the transition to a low carbon economy at the least cost.
  • Work with HMT to ensure coherence between the regulatory and licensing regimes and the taxation system in place to support the growth of these industries.

Enabling development, protecting the environment and safeguarding the public

  • Ensure regulation of the industry, including the planning and permitting processes, is as streamlined and simplified as possible through the exploration, appraisal and development phases to full production, while remaining sufficiently robust to safeguard public safety, the workforce, and the environment
  • Ensure government has the right policies in place to ensure safe decommissioning of sites and high quality restoration of the land, without increasing burden to the public purse.

Making sure local communities benefit from development in their area

  • Ensure the delivery of a coherent framework to enable local communities to benefit directly from any development of resources in their area.

Supporting public engagement

  • Support public engagement, helping people understand the facts about unconventional gas and oil production and what it could mean if it takes place in their area.
  • Support local authorities to engage with their communities on issues specific to their area in relation to exploration and production, helping to resolve issues and ensure projects are able to move forward, where appropriate, with the engagement of the local community.

Building our knowledge base

  • Support the provision of comprehensive, timely and accurate information on unconventional gas and oil recovery, ensuring research is carried out to fill knowledge gaps and allow us to base our policy on the best available evidence.
  • Ensure liaison with European and International bodies so we can learn from experiences elsewhere, and ensure we are joined up in our approach where appropriate.

Duarte Figueira has been appointed as the Head of OUGO

Duarte Figueira is a career civil servant who has held senior posts in DECC, UKTI and BIS. Over the last year he has been undertaking a role as Head of Strategy, Business Delivery at Technip Offshore Wind Ltd UK, a new company established by Technip to address the offshore wind opportunity, on a commercial secondment from the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Prior to this he was Head of Offshore Renewables at DECC, responsible for UK policy and development of offshore wind and marine energy (wave and tidal) by addressing financial and non-financial barriers to deployment and supporting the growth of a UK-based supply chain.

Published 20 March 2013