Cuadrilla bosses to respond to Balcombe fracking fears

A core of shale rock
Image caption The company has not ruled out shale extraction in West Sussex in the future

Energy bosses are being questioned about the technique known as fracking in a Sussex village where they have permission for exploratory drilling.

Balcombe residents want to know more about the process, which uses high-pressure liquid pumped underground to fracture shale rock and release gas

Energy company Cuadrilla said the technique was safe.

But Vanessa Vine said residents were concerned the technique could lead to the contamination of drinking water.

West Sussex County Council has given Cuadrilla planning permission to drill a borehole for oil and gas exploration to the south of the village.

Two earthquakes

However, Mark Miller, chief executive of Cuadrilla, said the company had no current plans to drill in West Sussex and was concentrating its efforts in the north west of England.

Tony Bosworth, of Friends of the Earth, said there was growing evidence in the US that shale gas drilling could lead to the contamination of water supplies with methane and other chemicals used in the process.

He said: "Balcombe residents are right to be concerned about the possibility of fracking in their area."

A report last year found it was highly probable fracking caused two small earthquakes in Lancashire.

Cuadrilla, which was carrying out shale gas drilling in Lancashire, suspended its shale gas test drilling in June 2011, following the two earthquakes.

On Tuesday, Prof Mike Stephenson, of the British Geological Survey, said most experts thought the process was a "pretty safe activity".

The meeting at Victory Hall in Balcombe was due to start at 19:30 GMT.

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