COMPANIES in Oxfordshire will be able to apply for licences from today to explore shale gas in the county. A map released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) appears to show areas of North Oxfordshire as one of the areas available for licences for fracking.

Last July the Oxford Mail reported that a 347sq m expanse in the north of Oxfordshire had been identified as a possible source of shale gas by the British Geological Survey. The area includes Banbury, Bicester and Kidlington and licences are the first step before drilling could begin.

‘Fracking’ is a method of shale gas extraction that involves drilling deep into the ground and pumping water, sand and chemicals into rock to fracture it and release reserves of gas and oil.

Today businesses can begin to bid for licences to explore the possibility of drilling for onshore gas and oil. Applicants must be able to show they understand the “environmental sensitivities” to the area.

Business and Energy Minister Matthew Hancock said: “Unlocking shale gas in Britain has the potential to provide us with greater energy security, jobs and growth.”