On 6 April 2016 regulations came into force setting out areas to be excluded from fracking and providing for a number of safeguards for onshore fracking in England and Wales.

What areas are excluded from fracking?

The Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing (Protected Areas) Regulations 2016 set out areas to be excluded from fracking as “protected groundwater source areas” and “other protected areas”, unless fracking is being carried out more than 1,200 metres beneath the surface.

“Protected groundwater source areas” are defined as land that is either:

– within 50 metres of a point at the surface at which water is abstracted from underground strata and is used to supply water for domestic or food production purposes; or

– within or above a zone defined by a 50-day travel time for groundwater to reach a groundwater abstraction point that is used to supply water for domestic or food production purposes.

“Other protected areas” are national parks, the Norfolk or Suffolk Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or World Heritage sites.

What are the safeguarding measures?

The Infrastructure Act 2015 (Commencement No.5) Regulations 2016 provide for safeguards for licensing onshore fracking.

The regulations stipulate that a well consent prohibits associated fracking at a depth of less than 1,000 metres and requires Secretary of State consent for associated fracking at a depth of 1,000 metres or less (hydraulic fracturing consent).

Associated fracking is defined as fracking for shale gas that is carried out in connection with use of a well to search, bore for or get petroleum and involves injection of more than 1,000 cubic metres of fluid at each stage or more than 10,000 cubic metres of fluid in total.

A hydraulic fracturing consent can only be issued by the Secretary of State if:

– all safeguards relating to environmental impacts and health and safety are met which include:

– monitoring methane in groundwater;

– prohibiting associated fracking within protected groundwater source areas and other protected areas;

– approval of the substances to be used to frack the well as part of environmental permitting;

– public consultation during the planning process; and

– they are satisfied that it is appropriate to issue the consent.

For more legislative updates, continue to follow the Hydraulic Fracking Blog.