Water supplier United Utilities has confirmed it is in talks with shale gas explorer Cuadrilla over potential fracking locations.
Fracking involves pumping large quantities of water, chemicals and sand into the ground at high pressure to hydraulically fracture the rocks and extract gas trapped within them.
The supplier today said it was talking with Cuadrilla over its water requirements for different drilling sites and is also discussing timescales for potential drilling and the disposal of waste water which results from the process.
A spokesman for United Utilities said: “The fact that we are a large landowner in the North West means we could possibly help with site selection.
“We’re presently in discussions with Cuadrilla to understand their potential water requirements in North West England to help us plan in more detail.”
He said this could include United Utilities letting Cuadrilla frack on its land, although no specific plans are under discussion yet.
He added: “We’re encouraged by the Government’s support for shale gas exploration because it is committed to a robust regulatory regime that will ensure public water supply is protected.”
A spokesman for Cuadrilla said: “We are talking to United Utilities about possible future sites and the timescales for potentially getting water supply to those areas.”
The talks come as the Government announces changes to planning regulations around onshore oil and gas.
The changes which will see decisions on seismic activity, flaring, treatment and the disposal of radioactive waste, all of which are concerned with fracking, made by Government agencies, instead of Lancashire County Council which is the Mineral Planning Authority.
A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said: “We are reviewing what the guidance says and the implications for the planning process.
“Local planning authorities have to make decisions in accordance with national planning guidance and policy set at the national and local level.” But John Hobson, a spokesman for campaign group Defend Lytham, said: “In the absence of any specific regulations for unconventional onshore exploration and production, with the regulatory bodies having little experience and no funding to make them capable of implementing and monitoring regulation, never mind giving detail consideration to planning applications, this is a recipe for disaster.”
Cuardrilla is hosting two drop-in sessions this week, in Freckleton Sports Club today from 4pm, followed by one at Elswick Village Hall from 5pm tomorrow.