A deal which could see fracking resume in Britain might soon come to fruition after United Utilities and Cuadrilla opened talks. The utility company currently provides water to seven million customers in the North West of the UK and owns some 141,000 acres of land between Cumbria and Crewe. It is now in discussions over suitable locations with Cuadrilla, a shale gas exploration firm, which could use this space for the controversial extraction process, which involves pumping huge amounts of water, chemicals and sand into rock at high pressure to release gas. A spokesperson for United Utilities said that that the two companies are "looking at potential opportunities for working together" and "trying to understand their requirements". "The fact that we are a large landowner in the North West means we could possibly help with site selection," the representative added. Opposition to fracking is quite strong, with warnings that the process could cause earthquakes, pollute existing water supplies and affect house prices in neighbouring areas. Only last week Water UK, an industry body which United Utilities is a member of, said that there needs to be greater engagement with the shale industry. "Clearly public health is a top priority but we are encouraged by the government's support for shale gas exploration because that means it is committed to a robust regulatory regime that will ensure the public water supply is protected," United Utilities added. Interest in shale gas extraction could be heightened in coming months after chancellor George Osborne recently announced that there would be new planning guidance and tax breaks for companies involved in the process. It followed a report from the Geological Survey which revealed that there was twice as much shale gas in the north of the UK than it was previously thought. Cuadrilla is also in a good position for any new partnerships after it was given a £160 million investment by the parent company of British Gas, Centrica - which has bought a 25 per cent stake in the Bowland exploration licence covering 450 miles of Lancashire's land.
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