Oil and gas industry welcomes amendments to the Infrastructure Bill

26 September 2014

UKOOG, the representative body for the UK onshore oil and gas industry, welcomes the amendments proposed to the Infrastructure Bill, published today, which will give the oil and gas and geothermal industries similar underground access rights to coal mining operations.

Ken Cronin, Chief Executive of UKOOG, said:

“This is an important day for the future of energy supply in the UK as this amendment will help pave the way for the UK to develop natural gas from shale for the benefit of households and businesses across the country.

“The amendments to the bill will give automatic access rights to underground land below 300 metres, bringing it in line with other essential services such as water, sewage and coal. The current system involves significant potential delays and costs without benefit either to the oil and gas industry or the landowner.

“Horizontal drilling for natural gas and oil from shale typically uses a well of 6-9 inches in diameter typically at least a mile below the surface. Landowners on the surface will not notice this underground activity, it will have no impact on their day-to-day lives and, at this depth, the land is not in use by the landowner.

“Natural gas heats 83% of the UK’s homes and generates 28% of our electricity and is a key fuel and feedstock for British industry. Research by EY suggests over 60,000 jobs could be created as we develop natural gas from shale in this country. Recent polling for The Guardian and the University of Nottingham indicates that people in the UK are increasingly in favour of exploiting shale gas in a properly regulated environment.  

“The onshore oil and gas industry is committed to working with local communities and operates within a regulatory system considered one of the best in the world. We have also brought forward proposals to share the benefits of shale gas exploration with local communities.”


Jason Nisse/Nick Morris 0207 680 6550 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Notes to editors:

• In a recent Populus survey, commissioned by UKOOG, 4,086 people were asked:

“The law currently gives permission for licensed companies to extract coal or lay water pipelines through underground land once proper notification is given. This means that companies do not need to ask for permission from individual landowners. The Government is planning to introduce permission for use of underground land for other pipelines such as oil and gas wells and geothermal energy. These pipelines would typically be 6-9 inches in diameter and a mile or more underground. Do you agree or disagree with introducing permission for other pipelines such as oil and gas wells and geothermal energy?”
Overall, 42% agreed with the planned changes to underground land access, compared with 16% who disagreed. Nearly a third (30%) of respondents ware neutral, while 12% were unsure.

• The most recent survey by the University of Nottingham has found that public support for the extraction of natural gas from shale is increasing, with support rising to 50.5% and opposition falling to 29.5%. The survey also found that 60% think that natural gas from shale will benefit the UK economy http://www.scribd.com/doc/131787519/public-perceptions-of-shale-gas-in-the-UK-September-2014-pdf

•The planned changes draw on the statutory right of access offered to companies mining for coal, and would introduce a right of underground access to companies producing natural gas, oil and geothermal energy in land at least 300 metres below the surface. Below this depth, the landowner is very unlikely to have any use of the land, and there will be no impact on amenity value (the landowner’s enjoyment of his or her land). It should be noted that horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing for natural gas and oil would not take place at 300 metres, but much deeper – typically more than a mile (1,600 metres) below the surface.  

• As part of these changes the industry will provide a public notification system that will set out the relevant area of underground land, together with a one-off payment of £20,000 for each unique horizontal well that extends by more than 200 metres laterally.

• These amendments to the Infrastructure Bill do not change the environmental permitting and planning process. Onshore oil and gas activities will still need regulatory approval from DECC, the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency, together with panning permission from the local Minerals Planning Authority. Local residents will continue to be able have their say on a project through the planning and permitting process - individuals, landowners and communities can engage at six separate stages of the approvals process: pre-application consultation, environmental risk assessment (ERA), pre-planning notices, planning authority consultation, environmental impact assessment (EIA), and environmental permitting.

• More details about the proposed changes, why they are important for the development of the UK’s energy resources, as well as key information for property owners can be found in this briefing document. http://www.ukoog.org.uk/images/ukoog/pdfs/UKOOG_Land_Access_Briefing_Document.pdf

• This graphic compares shale resources with other essential services that have rights of access http://www.ukoog.org.uk/images/ukoog/pdfs/UKOOG_Land_Access_Graphic.pdf

• The table below details the other services which have rights of access (see the UKOOG briefing document for references)

Table 1: Rights of access



Depth or height

Legal position

Water and sewage pipelines

10 cm duct for water pipelines underneath buildings

Up to a few metres below ground

The water industry and Environment Agency have compulsory powers to lay new water and sewage pipes

Pipelines for natural gas installed by National Grid

National Transmission System pipelines are 45-122 cm in diameter

Up to a few metres below ground

National Grid can be granted a compulsory wayleave in respect of underground land subject to payment in accordance with a compensation code


Crossrail tunnels have an external diameter of 7.1 metres and internal diameter of 6.2 metres

Up to 40 metres below ground

Crossrail access rights were acquired by compulsory purchase of the land and property

Coal mines

Modern deep-mine roadways are generally 1.5-4.0 metres high

Up to 800 metres below ground

Licensed coal operators have a right of access to underground land for coal mining operations, with no compensation provided


Up to 79.75 metres x 72.72 metres x 24.09 metres (Airbus A380 is the world’s largest passenger plane)

From 305 metres above ground up to over 10,000 metres above ground

1982 Civil Aviation Act separated airspace into lower and higher stratums and ruled that the space beyond an altitude of 500-1,000 feet (152.5-305 metres) is not in use by the landowner and therefore they should have no rights over it

Production of natural gas and oil from shale

Pipelines typically have a diameter of 15-23 cm (6-9 inches)

Typically at least 1,600 metres (1 mile) below ground

Currently rights of underground access are obtainable via a court order if agreement cannot be reached with all the landowners above the route, although the process is lengthy and complex.


About UKOOG:

UKOOG is the representative body for the UK onshore oil and gas industry, including exploration, production and storage. The organisation’s objectives are to enhance the profile of the onshore industry, promote better and more open dialogue with key stakeholders, deliver industry wide initiatives and programmes and to ensure standards in safety, the environment and operations are maintained to the highest possible level. Membership is open to all companies active in the onshore industry including those involved in the supply chain.


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