AN ENERGY company has denied claims it is to start drilling for shale gas using a controversial process known as "fracking" off the coast of Wirral.

IGas Energy, currently involved in extraction of methane, was responding to concerns by Liberal Democrat councillor Mark Johnston. He says licenses have been granted for the extraction of shale gas in parts of the borough.

Concerned about the potential environmetal impact of the process, Cllr Johnston will table a notice of motion for debate on the subject when Wirral council meets on Monday night.

He said: "We wanted to put this notice of motion before council for debate because so little is known about this process at the moment.

"There have been some very worrying stories in the press that shale gas exploration might be causing earthquakes and pollution of ground water.

"With shale gas exploration licences already granted for parts of Wirral, there are just too many unanswered questions on the safety and environmental impact of this process.

"We need to have a better understanding of the risks of adverse environmental impacts, as well as the potential impacts on the development of a low carbon economy in Merseyside.

"Until then, I think it's sensible to adopt a very cautious approach to any shale gas exploration and be clear about saying we don't want it here in Wirral unless all safety and environmental questions have been satisfactorily answered."

An IGas Energy spokesman said: "IGas Energy is currently focused on the production and marketing of coal bed methane gas in the UK, which is extracted by a completely different process to shale gas.

"The company currently has no plans to extract shale gas from its acreage.

"All drilling operations are carried out in line with the UK's stringent safety regulations and licensing guidelines.