Energy companies are targeting Cheshire as a possible location for controversial ‘fracking’ sites.
Ince Marshes, Blacon East and Milton Green, near Chester, are all being eyed up by firms searching for natural gas trapped in the layer of underground shale.
However, extracting shale gas is controversial as it uses so-called fracking technology which was blamed for causing earth tremors when a drill site was established near Blackpool.
Environmentalists also fear the chemicals pumped into the rock under pressure to release the gas can leak into ground water.
But the economic benefits could be substantial.
Drilling firm IGas Energy estimates the volume of ‘gas initially in place’ at its Ince Marshes site near Elton and other North West sites could range from 15.1 trillion cubic feet to 172.3 trillion cubic feet.
Dart Energy Ltd says well data demonstrates ‘significant potential for shale resource’ at Milton Green and Blacon East.
And Shell found ‘slight oil shows’ in the Blacon East area in 1981 leading former Cheshire West and Chester councillor Arthur Harada to ask ‘is the well now suitable’ given oil price rises.
Wirral Council remains “completely opposed” to fracking.
But Cheshire West and Chester Council leader Mike Jones, in his role as chairman of the Local Government Association’s environment and housing board, takes a different approach, arguing local communities should receive a greater share of gas extraction profits.
Cllr Jones said: “We believe that the benefits being offered to local areas need to be more substantial than the 1% of revenue currently being proposed. This is something we will now be looking to discuss with government.”
According to Cllr Jones, councils will be faced with making controversial decisions to approve shale gas.
“They will need to balance the need to make the most of natural resources with safeguarding the environment and protecting the public. As always the needs of local people will be at the heart of the decision making process,” he added.
Another company, Greenpark Energy believes there is a ‘high potential’ for developing coal bed methane in the Chester area and over the border into Sealand and Bretton.
In 2011 the firm erected a drilling rig on Lesters Lane near Bretton to drill a borehole for the purposes of coal bed methane appraisal and production.