Geologists reacted to the government’s lifting of the fracking ban saying the UK had the “wrong kind of shale” and that it was 280 million years too late.
The controversial green light raised concerns about earthquakes and an increase in the production of greenhouse gases at a time when the UK had made progress in reducing carbon emissions.
Professor Jon Gluyas, from Durham University, said: “Liz Truss hopes to get us out of the energy crisis by drilling thousands of wells to produce shale gas.
“It won’t work – societal objections aside, we have the wrong kind of shale and a geology that is far too complex.
“Indeed, even the founder of Cuadrilla – of Lancashire fracking fame a few years ago – is saying the same thing.”
Fracking was halted in 2019 following concerns about earthquakes in West Lancashire and the government said it would be guided by science before it was allowed to restart.
But Professor Stuart Haszeldine, a geologist at the University of Edinburgh, said there had been no progress in predicting the seismic impact of deep rock fracturing since then.
Much of the UK’s shale gas has simply escaped through cracks and faults since it was formed, he said.
“We are massively 280 million years behind,” he said.
Professor Haszeldine said local residents would face long-term concerns about earthquakes damaging their properties.
And companies encouraged to invest in expensive test drilling also risked huge losses, he said.
“I see this as a very significant business risk,” Prof Haszeldine said.
“You can walk in and lose a whole lot of money.”
But Professor Richard Davies, a petroleum geologist from the University of Newcastle, would not rule out the possibility that fracking is viable in the UK.
He said: “Everything I have learned from the oil industry shows that there are surprises beneath the surface of the earth.
“We don’t know everything.”
Professor Davies believed companies could look to the Gainsborough area in Lincolnshire rather than Lancashire, if fracking were to start again.
He said: “Although the UK is criss-crossed with flaws, there is evidence that the Midlands are slightly simpler.”
Prof Gluyas said that although the focus was on the North West of England, two potential sites for fracking to develop were Somerset, where Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg has his constituency, and shale oil in Norfolk, near the Prime Minister’s constituency.
Professor Gluyas, director of the Durham Energy Institute, said: “They might like to lead the way.”