The Government today stepped up its support for shale gas after a report said large scale production could create thousands of jobs and give almost £1 billion to local communities.
Ministers published a "regulatory roadmap" for shale gas setting out permits developers need before drilling.
The report, produced for the Government by engineering giant Amec, set out the potential effects of shale oil and gas production.
Shale gas extraction, or fracking, has proved to be hugely controversial, sparking protests in areas including Balcombe in Sussex.
Energy minister Michael Fallon said: "There could be large amounts of shale gas available in the UK, but we won't know for sure the scale of this prize until further exploration takes place.
"Today marks the next step in unlocking the potential of shale gas in our energy mix. "It is an exciting prospect, which could bring growth, jobs and energy security.
"But we must develop shale responsibly, both for local communities and for the environment, with robust regulation in place."
The Government said high levels of shale gas production could adversely affect the environment through increased traffic and pressure on water resources.
A consultation will now run until March to consider the findings of the report and how this affects shale gas production in the UK.
Greenpeace energy campaigner Anna Jones said: "Michael Fallon is desperate to put a positive spin on this report, but what it actually shows is that the Government wants to open two-thirds of England up to fracking, with all the associated risks.
"Up to 18% of all mains water could be used, enough waste water to fill 40,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools created, and tiny villages could experience up to 50 truck movements per day.
"Fallon has also ignored the report's lower jobs estimate, which is just 2,500."
Mary Church, head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: "Communities across Scotland will be alarmed to discover that despite growing evidence about the harmful impacts of unconventional gas drilling and fracking, the UK Government is determined to go ahead with plans to squeeze as much as they can out of some of the most populated parts of the country."
Amec's report said there could be between 14 and 51 vehicle movements to a fracking site each day over a 32 to 145-week period.
"This could have an adverse impact on traffic congestion, noise or air quality, depending on existing roads, traffic and air quality," said the report.
Annual water use of shale gas exploration could be up to nine million cubic metres, around 18% of mains water currently supplied to energy, water and waste firms, said the report.