Fracking could potentially be done safely in the UK under “rigorous regulation”, but it is too early to say whether it would be “a good idea”, the Task Force on Shale Gas has reported.
It said fracking could be safe for human health and the environment, but added that the industry needed to be more transparent.
The report did not look at fracking’s cost and climate change implications.
The task force is an independent body funded by the oil and gas industry.
There has been a great deal of public opposition to fracking – which involves blasting shale rock with water, sand and chemicals to release the gas trapped inside – in both the UK and elsewhere.
There are concerns over the possibility of water contamination, methane leakage, earth tremors and disruption to local communities.
However, the government is keen to exploit the UK’s shale gas resources to reduce dependence on imported gas and increase energy independence.
And this latest report suggests that, if regulations are tightened and a National Advisory Committee is established to monitor data from any shale gas operations, fracking could be safe.
Lord Smith, chair of the Task Force on Shale Gas, said: “Our conclusion from all the evidence we’ve seen is clear. Only if the drilling is done properly and to the highest standard, and with rigorous regulation and monitoring, can shale gas fracking be done safely for local communities and the environment.”
But the report did say that the practice of injecting waste water back into rock formations, which has been associated with earthquakes in the US, should be avoided.
Lord Smith said: “We have not yet concluded that fracking is a good idea for the UK.
“We still have to look at climate change and the economics. It would be premature to make conclusions yet on whether it is a good or bad thing.”
He added that if fracking would lead to a “substantial raising of greenhouse gas emissions”, it should not be allowed.
Environmentalists argue that if we are to avoid dangerous levels of climate change, fossil fuels need to be left in the ground in favour of cleaner, renewable energy such and wind and solar power.
The task force will publish two further reports this year, covering climate change and economics.
A final report on the potential risks and benefits of shale gas for the UK will be published in the spring of 2016.