The government has called for applications for licenses to drill for onshore oil and gas.
Energy minister Matthew Hancock published details of how to apply for a licence to start exploring for shale gas.
The process of extracting shale gas – often known as fracking – is controversial, but the government has committed to encouraging safe and responsible activity.
On top of the licences now available, companies will require planning permission as well as permits from the Environment Agency and sign-off from the Health and Safety Executive.
Hancock said: “Unlocking shale gas in Britain has the potential to provide us with greater energy security, jobs and growth.
“We must act carefully, minimising risks, to explore how much of our large resource can be recovered to give the UK a new home-grown source of energy. As one of the cleanest fossil fuels, shale gas can be a key part of the UK’s answer to climate change and a bridge to a much greener future.”
Communities secretary Eric Pickles will closely monitor planning appeals for fracking activities on areas of outstanding natural beauty; World Heritage sites; national parks; and the Broads over the next year.
New planning guidance has been issued for shale gas applications on the above sites.