Political leaders in Gloucestershire have urged caution after the county was identified as an area which could be suitable for fracking.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to mine shale gas and oil deposits deep underground could take place on almost two thirds of land in England with Cornwall the only county where the controversial mining technique has been ruled out.
A Government-commissioned report, carried out by consultants Amec, suggests mining companies could be offered the chance to drill on 37,000 square miles of land in the UK.
And close to 3,000 wells could be drilled with shale gas viewed by many as an answer to the UK’s growing energy demands.
Gloucestershire is identified in the report as an area under consideration for fracking, which sees high pressure water pumped into rock to flush out gas deposits.
Councillor Jeremy Hilton (LD, Kingsholm and Wotton), Lib Dem spokesman for finance and change, believes Gloucestershire needs to develop a detailed map of its deposits.
He said: “The issue is that hydraulic fracturing could provide a lot of gas for the UK and with 70 per cent of our gas expected to be imported by 2030 we really do need our own supply.
“Looking at the map it is quite clear that Gloucestershire is not a high yield area so I cannot see why there would be any major applications for licences.
“However, we do need to look at the deposits that are in Gloucestershire and see which areas may or may not be targeted for exploration.”
The licencing process, when companies can apply to frack, is expected to start next summer.
Councillor Sarah Lunnon (Green, Stroud Central) said: “There are considerable worries about the impact fracking could have on local communities, so things like the impact of vehicle movements and also the possibility of contamination of the water supply.”
Councillor Lesley Williams (Lab, Stonehouse), leader of the Labour group, said fracking should only go ahead if every environmental box is ticked.
“Shale gas exploration should only proceed when it is environmentally safe to do so,” she said.
“The Labour Party will look very closely at the Government’s report.
“However, I am deeply sceptical that Gloucestershire will be suitable for fracking and the Labour Party will look very closely at any application to start the process in the county.”