AJ Lucas shares have surged after confirming reports its British subsidiary, Cuadrilla, is holding preliminary talks with major investors, as the United Kingdom seeks to replicate the shale gas revolution underway in the United States.

Shares in the mining contractor – which owns a 42 per cent stake in Cuadrilla – spiked as much as 12 per cent on Monday morning.

British multinational Centrica has been named as a potential suitor in the British financial press, but Lucas has declined to comment.

The potential financial backing of a multinational is seen as a major step to support Cuadrilla’s efforts to exploit what is believed to be Britain’s largest untapped shale gas reserve.

‘‘[Lucas] confirms that, as part of its and Cuadrilla's ongoing review of the options for  appraisal and development of the Bowland Basin, discussions are being held with a number of parties regarding the future development of the Bowland Basin,’’ Lucas said in a statement to the stock exchange.

‘‘However, these discussions remain at a preliminary stage and the company is not in a position to advise whether any agreement will result from them.’’

Much attention has been focused on Britain’s shale gas industry after the UK prime minister, David Cameron, lifted a ban on the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, required to tap the resource.

Cuadrilla’s activities were suspended around the Bowland shale basin in Lancashire after the fracking triggered a series of minor earthquakes in 2011.

But reports lodged by leading scientific agencies in Britain led the nation's Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, todeclare he was comfortable fracking could be conducted safely, as long as monitoring conditions around tremors were strictly observed.

The Bowland shale basin is estimated to hold 200 trillion cubic feet of gas, enough for 60 years of energy supply – although only a fraction of that is expected to be exploitable.

In the US, fracking – which involves injecting vast quantities of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure to ‘fracture’ dense shale to release the gas trapped inside – has unlocked vast gas reserves previously considered uneconomic.

Gas prices have fallen by as much as 80 per cent, triggering hopes of a rejuvenation of a US investment boom in manufacturing.  But environmental groups have slammed the practice of fracking, with particular concern centred around the potential contamination of water supplies.