Publishing an internal report on fracking could call into question the viability of the industry, the Government has said.
Greenpeace has criticised ministers for refusing to publish the report which it said showed the UK fracking industry was projected to be much smaller than once claimed.
The group’s investigative news unit Unearthed last month said it had learned that forecasts from the 2016 report predicted there would be 155 fracking wells nationwide by 2025.
The forecast came just two years after a study for the industry suggested there could be 4,000 wells extracting shale gas by the early 2030s.
Energy minister Claire Perry has since said the figure of 155 wells by 2025 is “now considered to be out of date”, though the Government has not made new estimates.
But responding to a Freedom of Information request from Unearthed to publish the report, the Cabinet Office said “release of information from 2016, even with the passage of time, could call into question the industry’s viability”.
It also said publication would affect the ability of ministers and officials to discuss policy frankly and would reveal confidential and commercially sensitive information.
Greenpeace’s Hannah Martin said people had the right to know what was in the report.
“The fracking industry must be in an even worse state than we suspected if ministers think the publication of a 2016 report could single-handedly throw its viability into question.
“We have all heard for years about the imaginary jobs, investment and benefits fracking was supposed to bring – now it’s time to look at the facts.
“Ministers have bent over backward to support this failing industry.”
She accused the Government of changing laws including on planning, bypassing local democracy and trying to prevent full publication of a previous report which suggested fracking could harm landscapes and hit house prices.
“The least they owe the British public is a little transparency,” she said.
“Let’s publish the report, let’s debate the facts and let people make their minds up.”
The most recent polling for the Government shows support for fracking is just 16%, while a large majority of people are in favour of renewables such as onshore wind.
A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: “The Government prepares a number of confidential and commercially sensitive documents for internal discussion and analysis to inform the policy making process.”