London (CNN)Fracking has restarted in the United Kingdom for the first time since 2011, as the UK-based energy firm Cuadrilla kicked off a three-month exploration process on Preston New Road in the northern English county of Lancashire.
Fracking commences in UK for first time since 2011, draws protests
The launch of the project follows a failed legal challenge by an environmental campaigner Friday.
The controversial mining process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, extracts gas from shale rock by injecting fluid at high pressure into shale formations deep beneath the Earth's surface.
The UK's then-Department of Energy and Climate Change suspended shale gas operations in 2011 after fears that the process was linked to earth tremors. Since then, there has been no fracking in the UK.
The process of extracting gas through fracking has come under fire from environmental groups that argue the process has consequences for the environment and contaminates groundwater.
Craig Bennett, chief executive of environmental group Friends of the Earth, criticized the UK government for wanting to "fast-track fracking."
"It is morally bankrupt to be heralding the start of a whole new fossil industry, when climate catastrophe awaits. You can deal with climate change or you can have fracking -- you can't do both," he said in a statement on the group's website.
Protests erupted on Preston New Road as around 50 demonstrators blockaded the street ahead of the start of the process. A man and woman appeared to cement their arms into a set of tires, according to reports by the UK Press Association.
A government spokesperson said in a statement: "Shale gas has the potential to be a new domestic energy source, enhancing our energy security and delivering economic benefits, including the creation of well paid, quality jobs. We have been clear that any shale developments must be safe and environmentally sound."
Francis Egan, CEO of Cuadrilla, told CNN in a statement: "We are delighted to be starting our hydraulic fracturing operations as planned. We are now commencing the final operational phase to evaluate the commercial potential for a new source of indigenous natural gas in Lancashire. If commercially recoverable, this will displace costly imported gas, with lower emissions, significant economic benefit and better security of energy supply for the UK."