Fracking and the development of shale gas in Europe could create one million new jobs and add up to £3 trillion to the value of European economies, new research has found.

Shale gas has the potential to make flagging industries more competitive and reduce dependence on expensive energy imports but is under threat from European Union regulators who fear the environmental impact of extracting the resources.

The research carried out by independent consultancies, Poyry Management Consulting and Cambridge Econometrics, is published as the European Commission prepares legislation later this year to regulate shale-gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing, a procedure known as fracking.

The new energy resource could add a total of €1.7 to 3.8 trillion to the value of the EU’s economy between 2020 and 2050, generating 400,000 and 800,000 new jobs by 2035, and between 600,000 to 1.1 million by 2050.

The researchers also predicted that domestic production could reduce dependence on gas imports to between 62pc and 78pc by 2035, cutting demand that is currently estimated to rise to 89pc unless shale gas is exploited.

The shift away from imports to domestic shale gas production potentially unlocks €191bn that could be invested in European industry with tax revenues worth up to €1.2 trillion for Europe’s indebted governments.

The study is the first to quantify and to attempt to measure how much Europe’s economy could benefit from domestic shale gas production if exploitation is allowed to take place over the next two decades.

“Europe is still in a period of difficult economic and social recovery. This new study shows that shale gas production could have significant economic benefits,” said Roland Festor, of the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers.

“We cannot afford to forego such an opportunity. We encourage policy makers to create the right conditions for exploration.”

Last month MEPs voted for new EU laws requiring that exploration for potential deposits of shale gas to face the same environmental regulation as a full-scale oil drilling, a regulatory burden that could kill off fracking in its infancy.

Britain and Poland want to start widespread exploration but France, Bulgaria, Germany and Spain are worried about environmental risks.