LONDON, May 23 (Reuters) - Britain is seeking to change the rules regarding land access to make it easier and quicker for shale oil and gas companies to drill underground deposits, as the government steps up efforts to exploit the country's shale resources.
The government on Friday also published a report which suggested as much as 4.4 billion barrels of shale oil could lie beneath the Southern England countryside, adding to last year's estimates that there were enormous shale gas deposits in northern England.
Shale oil and gas could help alleviate Britain's growing dependency on energy imports but the method used to extract the resources from rocks - fracking - has prompted environmental protests amid fears it could cause earthquakes and contaminate drinking water.
The government said it was launching a consultation to simplify the existing procedures for companies who want to drill underground. (Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by Kate Holton)