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UK trespass review could boost shale gas, geothermal


The UK government is to examine whether trespass laws should be amended to make it easier for producers to access potential shale gas reserves, the Department of Energy and Climate Change said Tuesday.

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The review could also benefit deep geothermal energy projects, it said.

"Like any other industrial activity, oil and gas operations require access permission from landowners...there is an existing legal route by which operators can apply for access where this cannot be negotiated," the DECC said. "We are currently considering whether this existing route is fit for purpose. ."

Unlike in the US, UK landowners do not have rights to the oil and gas under their land, which has been cited as a reason why shale gas could be slow to take off.

The government and industry have proposed new community benefit schemes to remedy this, including a fee per well and a revenue-sharing mechanism.

However, while landowners do not own the oil and gas under their land, it is possible that drilling under someone else's land could lead to a trespass action.

From 2008-10 Mohamed Al Fayed, the former owner of London's Harrods department store, sued onshore producer Star Energy for a share of the proceeds from an oil well Star Energy had drilled under his estate in Surrey, southern England.

Al Fayed was not awarded a share of the proceeds from production, but was granted GBP1,000 ($1,660) compensation for trespass after a case that went to the Court of Appeal.

The precedent suggested shale gas explorers drilling long lateral wells under other people's land could face potential trespass suits unless they negotiated access.

--Alex Froley,
--Edited by Dan Lalor,