VAST shale gas reserves discovered near Chester could create thousands of jobs and contribute to an energy revolution.
Onshore gas explorer IGas Energy estimates there could be more than nine trillion cubic feet of shale gas located on the outskirts of the city.
IGas discovered the huge natural gas field while drilling for coal-bed methane gas on Ince Marshes near Elton and the firm is currently looking for partners to carry out more tests and potentially begin drilling for gas.
But the discovery is sure to attract controversy.
Extracting the valuable resource involves the fracking technique, which campaigners believe can contaminate the water with chemicals, trigger earthquakes and damage the environment.
Earlier this year the government suspended fracking operations in the UK following two earthquakes near Blackpool and both France and Bulgaria have banned shale gas exploration.
However, chancellor George Osborne and energy minister Ed Davey have this week suggested the government could be ready to lift its suspension.
North West MEP Paul Nuttall claims Chester could be one of the first places in the UK to capitalise on an impending shale gas boom.
He believes extracting the gas would create thousands of jobs, help slash rising fuel bills and ease the country's energy shortage.
He said: “We are sitting on the biggest shale deposits in Europe and to me this an absolute no-brainer.
“This will bring thousands of jobs to the area and have a major knock-on effect as well. It has huge potential for Chester, Ellesmere Port and beyond.
“We are in a recession and our region is one of the hardest hit. This will not only create jobs, but drive down energy prices too.
“I believe this is the most exciting thing to happen in the energy sphere in our generation and we should be grasping it with both hands. I hope that IGas has the courage to invest in the shale deposits in Cheshire so we can start to think about reducing the heating bills for residents within the borough.”
Shale gas production in the United States has been credited with creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and falling energy bills.
Mr Nuttall said: “All this nonsense about fracking and earthquakes is basically scaremongering. The big energy companies are scared of shale because it will bring prices down and the green groups don’t want it because they back wind farms but they are not working.
“Shale gas has already began to show its potential in the US and Canada where it is quickly establishing itself as a vital energy resource of the 21st century allowing for a reduced reliance on gas imports from the Middle East.”
IGas chief executive officer Andrew Austin confirmed the firm was continuing to investigate gas production at Ince Marshes. He said he believed there was “significant” potential for the site and talks were ongoing with potential partners, the Environment Agency and the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
“We drilled our well at Ince Marshes and we were very encouraged by the results,” he said.
“But obviously anything to do with shale gas needs to be done with community involvement. We have to make sure they are comfortable with what we are doing and we can return the environment to the way it was before. If it does work, and the early indications are we believe it can, it will make a very material difference to the energy security of the UK.
“As we have seen in the United States, it can make a big difference to jobs and to the industrial activity in the surrounding area.”
Roger Parkin, chairman of the Cheshire Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said: “Any visible impact that such a development would have on the Ince Marshes would be of concern to the CPRE."
“It is not only the visible damage to the country landscape but also the increase in HGV usage in the rural areas as this is something that we are extremely keen to minimise. These are the possible problems of such a large scale industrial operation on the Marshes that we would take issue with.”