LONDON, June 24 (Reuters) - Britain on Tuesday further adapted its rules to accommodate shale gas exploration by allowing operators to hold bigger acreage, but it also cut the time explorers have to share drilling data to six months in a bid to help transparency.
The British government supports the development of shale gas as a means to cut dependence on energy imports and to create jobs and it has paved the way for exploration to start by introducing favourable tax terms and local community incentives.
Energy Minister Michael Fallon said on Tuesday he had signed orders to implement further changes that will allow onshore oil and gas licence holders to retain larger land areas than before.
Conventional oil and gas is typically concentrated in small areas holding large volumes of fossil fuels, but shale gas is more dispersed.
"These changes will reduce costs to the licensee but they won't lead to land-banking as plans for meaningful activity will have to be approved," he told a shale gas industry conference.
The Minister also said he had signed the order to cut the confidentiality period on flow rates and fracking data to six months from four years.
"It is important that everyone has access to this information earlier," he said.
The support for shale gas by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government comes ahead of a 2015 general election.
Tom Greatrex, energy minister at the opposition Labour Party, said at the same conference his party largely supported shale gas exploration within a tightly regulated framework.
If elected next year, a Labour government would require developers to carry out a 12-month monitoring programme once a shale gas well is drilled before exploration can begin, he said.
"The benefits of shale gas mean it is worth exploring," Greatrex said. (Reporting by Karolin Schaps, editing by William Hardy)