Centrica, British Gas’s owner, is in talks to buy into Cuadrilla Resources, chaired by the former BP chief executive Lord Browne, in a move that could boost the UK’s nascent shale gas industry.
Centrica is negotiating to buy into the Bowland Shale licences owned by Cuadrilla in Lancashire.
“This would be a real boost for UK shale development,” said Peter Atherton, an analyst at Liberum Capital. “Centrica brings great resources and great upstream experience. It’s also the one company whose absolute core is making sure that the UK is well supplied with gas.”
Cuadrilla Resources, which is part-owned by the private equity fund of which Lord Browne is a director, suffered a blow in 2011 when operations were suspended following earthquakes in the area it was fracking.
The Chancellor, George Osborne, is a fan of shale gas, and Centrica seems convinced that fracking could be the way to increase reserves and reduce energy bills.
Having previously argued that shale gas might not be the “game-changer” that it has been in the US, Centrica is now poised to take a major role in its development in the UK.
Although the process of fracking, which sees a mixture of water, sand and chemicals forced into the rock, traces its roots back to the 1860s, it has only come to prominence in the past decade.