LICENCES for fracking operations in Northwich remain in place, although no immediate plans for a start date are in place.

INEOS was granted licence to explore the area for shale gas extraction in 2015, although its operations since then have focused largely on the Midlands.

An INEOS spokesman said: “We have licenses in the Northwich area but no active shale operations at the moment.

“INEOS has continued to focus on its shale business in the Midlands where last year it completed the largest onshore 3D seismic survey ever undertaken in the UK.

“Since then we have continued to progress planning applications to take core samples of the shale 2km below the surface and to progress consented drilling opportunities with partners, also in the Midlands. These wells will give us a good indication of the potential reserves of gas.

“We continue to take a considered science-based approach to all our activities, whilst communicating with local communities living and working close to our operations.”

INEOS has last month called on the government to increase the shale seismicity limit from an ‘unworkable’ 0.5 on the Richter scale to a ‘more sensible’ level.

The limit is well below the 4.0 level found in the USA, where more than a million shale wells have been drilled.

Mike Amesbury, MP for Weaver Vale, has opposed the prospect of fracking in the constituency since taking office.

He said: “Many of us feared the worst when the fracking industry was given the go-ahead to drill in Lancashire, and these fears were proven well-founded with drilling having to be halted on numerous occasions due to earth tremors.

“Rather than respond to this by stopping to thoroughly examine what the real dangers here are, the industry instead set out trying to get the rules relaxed around how big the earthquake has to be before they’re required to stop drilling.

“It’s truly worrying, as is the fact the government has set its stall out to make it easier for the industry to override the decisions of our local planning representatives.

“Fracking is not wanted in Weaver Vale, I have opposed it from the outset and after multiple meetings with the industry and visiting protests across the north west I’ve seen and heard nothing to change my mind.”

On Tuesday, Mike again raised the issue in parliament, during Commons questions to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) minister Claire Perry MP.

He said: “Fracking is bad for the environment, our health, our democracy, landscape – even the courts.

“Will the minister recognises that the government is on shaky ground – quite literally – and ditch its support for this failing industry?

But energy minister Claire Perry MP said the process would create new jobs.

Ms Perry said: “We have said repeatedly that the opportunity to create a homegrown energy source that provides thousands of jobs in parts of the country that economic policies haven’t been able to help – with the toughest regulations for oil and gas exploration in the world – is something that we should soberly and sensibly explore, and that continues to be the case.”

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