AS 2014: Fracking research centre for Cheshire

Thornton Science Park at the former Shell research centre near Ellesmere Port is to get one of two new sub-service test centres as part of a £31m investment announced in the Autumn Statement.

The government's Energy Security and Innovation Observing System, consisting of two sub-surface test centres, one of which will be at Thornton, will be used to measure the results from hundreds of boreholes drilled across Britain as the government tries to reassure residents that the controversial fracking energy source is safe.

Special sensors in the boreholes would be used to test for water pollution and the possibility of earthquakes.

Along the Mersey from Thornton, Runcorn-based Ineos last month announced a £640 fracking programme to tap into the potential for this sector.

The 66-acre Shell site was acquired by the University of Chester in early 2013. The university was gifted the site and Shell earned back millions of pounds through a tax rebate due through the donation.

The university has now started science courses at Thornton. The site also contains technology office and lab space for high growth companies, who can receive European Regional Development Fund assistance.

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