Around half of the area of the UK is being opened up for exploration. But there's expected to be particular interest in the north of England, which is thought to contain enough shale gas to power Britain for decades.
The licensing round is intended to accelerate the exploitation of shale, but it's only the first step. Firms also need a series of planning, environmental and health and safety consents.
While the government hopes the industry will generate jobs and reduce our dependency on imported gas, it will not be at any cost. The government is tightening the rules around drilling in National Parks.
Fracking will not be banned, but it's likely to be permitted only inexceptional circumstances.
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a kind of rock made of thin layers which can break easily
increase the speed of
permissions or agreements
a situation in which you need something or someone
making the rules stricter
(here) very unusual