Cuadrilla is set to increase its exploration programme for shale gas in northeast England.
The group announced that it intends to apply for planning consent to hydraulically fracture and test the shale at its existing exploration well at Grange Hill.
It has also announced that it intends over time to apply for consent to drill, hydraulically fracture and test the gas flow at up to six new temporary exploration well sites in the Fylde.
The precise locations of the new sites and the order in which they might be drilled will be determined over the coming months.
Cuadrilla will also apply for planning consent to drill up to three further vertical exploration wells. These wells will not be hydraulically fractured.
Natural gas from Lancashire could lead to thousands of new jobs, higher tax revenues and lower emissions
They will allow additional rock samples to be taken, and further improve knowledge of the subsurface geology; their locations will be discussed with the community before they are finalised. These operations will be discrete from the proposed exploratory works detailed above.
A further stage in determining how much of the natural gas reserves can be recovered from the shale would be to test gas flow from some of the hydraulically fractured exploration wells over an extended period.
Francis Egan, Cuadrilla’s chief executive, said: “The purpose of all our ongoing exploratory work is to demonstrate that natural gas can be produced from the shale in commercial quantities.
“The UK increasingly depends on imports for its supplies of gas. Gas is vital in heating our homes and businesses, supplying our industry and, along with other fuels and renewables, generating our electricity.”
According to a recent report by the Institute of Directors, natural gas from Lancashire could lead to thousands of new jobs, higher tax revenues and lower emissions.
Last year, UK fracking was put on hold by the government after Cuadrilla drilling operations caused a number of minor earthquakes.
The moratorium on shale gas drilling was lifted in December.