The U.K. plans to offer companies including IGas Energy Plc, Ineos Group AG and Cuadrilla Resources Ltd. the rights to drill for oil and gas in 27 onshore blocks as it bids to kickstart the country’s shale-gas industry.
Igas won the rights to seven blocks, Ineos to three and Cuadrilla to two, one of them in partnership with a unit of France’s Engie, according to documents posted Tuesday by the U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change on its website. Each block typically covers an area of about 100 square kilometers (39 square miles).
The U.K. is trying to spur the development of domestic shale gas with tax incentives and faster planning procedures amid opposition from local communities and environmentalists. Energy Minister Nicholas Bourne said investment could reach 33 billion pounds ($52 billion), supporting 64,000 jobs.
“Keeping the lights on and powering the economy is not negotiable,” Bourne said Tuesday in a statement. “These industries will play a key part in providing secure and reliable energy to U.K. homes and businesses for decades to come.”
Contracts for the 27 blocks announced Tuesday won’t be awarded until later in the year after another 132 blocks have been assessed in more detail, the government said. This week’s blocks are all in central and northern England, though the ones still being assessed include parts of the south.
Not a single well has been fracked in the U.K. since 2011, when drilling by Cuadrilla caused two small earthquakes.
Also named today was Cirque, a group that includes Swift Exploration Ltd., Stelinmatvic Industries Ltd. and Cirque Energy U.K. Ltd., which will be offered four blocks. Hutton Energy Plc and Coronation Oil and Gas Ltd. were offered two blocks together and a further two in consortium with three companies including Celtique Energie Petroleum Ltd. Engie was offered another block on its own.