The French firm that shared the blame for the Buncefield oil depot explosion has become the first major fuel company to invest in UK fracking.
Total has bought a 40 per cent stake in two shale gas exploration licences in Lincolnshire.
Fracking involves drilling deep underground and injecting chemicals and water into shale rock to form cracks that are used to extract shale gas.
The threat of contaminating water in the ground and allowing harmful chemicals to rise to the earth’s surface are just two of the environmental fears raised about fracking.
Negligence by Total and another company was found to be the cause of the 2005 explosion at Hemel Hempstead’s Buncefield oil storage depot which has a devastating effect on the Maylands industrial area.
Hemel Hempstead man Colm Gallagher said: “Total, a petrol company from France – a country which has banned fracking for environmental reasons – is investing in fracking over here.”
Total spokesman Brian O’Neill said: “The 2005 incident at Buncefield was serious and regrettable, and important lessons have been learned by Total and the wider industry.
“The nature of operations relating to the exploration and production of shale gas, however, is completely different from that of an oil storage depot, and the plant and processes associated with each are also largely unconnected.
“Total is a global energy company with a long history and significant experience of safely producing oil & gas in a wide range of contexts. All that experience will be available and applied to our UK shale gas activities.”