Chemicals firm Ineos has bought a controlling interest in a fracking licence in Scotland.
The firm bought 51% of an onshore oil and gas licence from energy firm BG Group, although it has no operating rights.
Dart Energy, which owns the other 49% of the licence, intends to use it to extract fuel from the area, next to the Firth of Forth.
Ineos separately announced it would give 6% of production revenue from controversial shale extraction to landowners and communities.
Chairman Jim Ratcliffe said: “We think this is a game changer for Britain. Giving 6% of the revenues to those living above our shale gas operations will give them a real stake in the success of the venture and encourage the development of the whole shale gas industry.”
Energy minister Matthew Hancock approved the purchase of the licence.
He said: “It’s very welcome news that Ineos want to explore for shale gas. We have a huge amount of natural gas trapped deep beneath the ground which could be used to heat our homes, and reduce our reliance on expensive foreign imports.
“It’s a real vote of confidence that Ineos recognise the potential of shale gas to transform local communities; create jobs and new economic opportunities; and provide a cleaner, greener domestic energy resource.”
The process of extracting shale gas from deep below the ground – often known as fracking – is controversial, but the government has committed to encouraging safe and responsible activity.