UK shale gas resources 'greater than thought'

 

Osborne: "Local communities should get, for example, at least £100,000 for every fracking well that is created"

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UK shale gas resources may be far greater than previously thought, a report for the government says.

The British Geological Survey estimates there may be 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas present in the north of England - double previous estimates.

Meanwhile the government has announced measures to enable shale gas drilling as part of its infrastructure plans.

Energy Minister Michael Fallon described shale gas as "an exciting new energy resource".

The BGS said its estimate for shale gas resources in the Bowland Basin region, which stretches from Cheshire to Yorkshire, represented potential resources, but "not the gas that might be possible to extract".

"Shale gas clearly has potential in Britain but it will require geological and engineering expertise, investment and protection of the environment," it said.

Drilling companies have previously estimated that they may be able to extract around 10% of this gas - equivalent to around 130 trillion cubic feet.

Shale gas map
'Early days'

If the estimates are proved correct, that would still suggest recoverable reserves of shale gas far in excess of the three trillion cubic feet of gas currently consumed in the UK each year.

Shale gas is extracted through "fracking" - the controversial process of freeing trapped gas by pumping in a mixture of water, sand and chemicals.

Analysis

The truly massive shale gas resource of the north of England may bring tax revenues and possibly - not definitely - lead to lower bills, but it won't help the environment.

This week the government's climate change advisers warned that the UK was failing to keep pace with legally binding cuts in the CO2 emissions that are disrupting the climate.

The Environment Agency warns that if we want to keep burning gas we will have to rely on unproven technology to capture the carbon emissions in order to meet climate change targets.

It also warns that gas escaping from fractured wells may increase climatic disruption.

Meanwhile the International Energy Agency warns that the world can only burn a third of its existing fossil fuel reserves without a serious risk of de-stabilising the climate.

Shale gas plans will meet local environmental opposition too.

The process has helped boost the domestic energy industry in the US in recent years, where oil production has risen and gas prices have plummeted.

In a statement, the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: "Though it is early days for shale in the UK, it has the potential to contribute to the UK's energy security, increase inward investment and growth."

The government has unveiled a package of reforms to encourage development in the industry.

They include new planning guidelines to make the process of approving new drilling sites more streamlined, and a consultation on tax incentives to encourage exploration.

Communities affected by shale gas drilling are also expected to receive £100,000 in "community benefits" and 1% of production revenues, should sites start producing gas.

"Shale gas represents an exciting new potential energy resource for the UK, and could play an important part in our energy mix," said Energy Minister Michael Fallon

"Development must be done in partnership with local people. We welcome the commitments from industry on community benefits.

"This will provide a welcome boost for communities who will host shale exploration and production as well as offering strong assurances that operators will engage with them and work to the highest health, safety and environmental standards."

fracking graphic

He said communities hosting shale gas drilling could benefit from cheaper bills, regeneration schemes and new community facilities like playgrounds and sports halls.

The incentives are designed to overcome significant scepticism surrounding the process of fracking, which has generated environmental concerns.

Critics argue that it can cause earth tremors and pollute water supplies, and that shale gas wells could blight the countryside and affect house prices.

They also want investment in green energy sources, rather than fossil fuels.

Labour's shadow energy minister, Tom Greatrex, conceded that gas would remain "an important part of our energy mix in the future".

But he dismissed the announcement of incentives as "a desperate attempt to draw attention away from the government's cuts to infrastructure investment... and its abject failure to get the economy growing".

Power warning

Currently the UK's shale industry remains in its infancy, with relatively small energy companies such as IGas and Cuadrilla until recently the only firms with licences to explore share gas resources.

Centrica, the owner of British Gas, announced its intention to buy a stake in one licence in the Bowland Basin owned by Cuadrilla earlier this month.

The report for the government comes as energy regulator Ofgem warned that the risks of power blackouts has increased because excess capacity in the power industry has fallen in the UK.

The watchdog has twice warned in recent months that the amount of spare power is shrinking, partly due to some gas generators being taken out of service.

Centrica has already withdrawn two of its gas plants from operation. In April, SSE confirmed that it too would mothball gas plants and put off investments in new ones.

Adam Scorer, of the lobby group Consumer Futures, said: "Projections of ever-tighter capacity margins understandably raise fears of higher electricity prices.

"Government and regulator need to agree on the most realistic capacity scenarios, the least-cost ways of reducing demand and, where necessary, of incentivising new generation capacity."

Announcing further details of the government's spending review to parliament, Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander said the government had agreed "strike prices" in an effort to boost investment in renewable forms of energy.

The prices mean the government will guarantee to pay a certain price for energy generated through on-shore and off-shore wind, tidal, wave, bio-mass and solar power.

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 267.

    flippin eck

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 266.

    250.Ex Tory Voter
    Indeed. But according to BBC the cost of extraction in the UK means shale gas would be more expensive than importing, little, or no, benefit to the UK economy apart from a certain level of energy independence
    -
    That doesnt take into account future prices rises and the political aspects of importing, just look at what Russia did to the Ukraine, they just switched it off

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 265.

    Fracking is far from proven to be safe, there is research that suggests it has polluted the water table in Pennsylvania. Its just an excuss for a few ppl to make some quick cash. We need to invest in renewable tech like biofuels generated from bacteria which are carbon free rather than pursuing more fossil fuels or don't we want't to leave a biosphere for future generations.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 264.

    This government is already taxing industry and consumers -- road users in particular -- over its claimed intentions to reduce CO2 emissions and make a positive contribution to climate change and the environment.

    Yet now it's bribing local communities to accept the proven risks of tremors and groundwater pollution, and all to ultimately produce yet more greenhouse gases.

    This is insane.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 263.

    We need to do something - either shale gas or nuclear.
    Wind is unreliable, unsightly and costly.
    When the lights start to go out a lot of the opposition will melt away.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 262.

    Here we go. A bit of good news and its 'wicked Tories', 'greedy shareholders', 'environmental catastrophe', 'evil Thatcher' etc. etc... Grow up, or get some Prozac.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 261.

    Fortunately we are not going in to this new tech blind.

    Our American cousins have already started fracking projects so we can look to them for an example of what to expect. There we see reports of water and air contamination, earthquakes and health problems, as well as issues with the disposal of toxic radioactive fracking wastewater.

    The fracking answer is fracking obvious. Lets not do it.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 260.

    With governments over the years it's all about robbing Mother Earth for short term gain. This is not sustainable energy, but being lucky enough to find a £50 note on the pavement that an old lady dropped.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 259.

    As I understand it don't they use poisonous chemicals and trillions of gallons of water to extract shale gas? So when we have a water shortage what then? Oh that's right, it won't matter because the water table will all be poisoned anyway. There's some horrendous stories coming from America about this issue. Not sure this is a good idea!

  • rate this
    -32

    Comment number 258.

    Great news.

    The poor wee global warming fans get shafted again. You are all going to dies coz the little science people says so. The little science people have opinions. No they don't.

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 257.

    Convincing offices to upgrade their PCs would be a great way to reduce demand. In the last 3 or 4 years power consumption for PC components has dropped about 50%, it would take a massive strain off our supply if this were exploited by businesses.

  • rate this
    -19

    Comment number 256.

    I love this. There's nothing the climate-change liars can do about it, or the green goons. We're gonna have loads of cheap energy and we can pull down the wind-turbines. I can't wait to see all the Green Industry lot chucked on the scrap-heap. In 50 years' time we'll open the pits agaiin and victory will be complete.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 255.

    I'm glad that our industries here in the US won't have to rely on Putin and OPEC as much. Shale will be a nice bridge until more sustainable fuels could be developed for mass use. Good luck on our brothers in the UK on your efforts.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 254.

    221.SingleMaltGamer

    And how long do you think it would be before the shareholders of these UK companies sell out to the foreign owned ones?.

    Virtually all our utilities are foreign owned, with their extortionate profits used to subsidise foriegn energy prices.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 253.

    I'm getting the impression that the BBC does not support fracking.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 252.

    We need to keep the lights on until we develop sustainable, green alternatives to fossil fuels. So, we need to burn gas. And it's better to burn ours rather than import. And: fracking doesn't CAUSE earthquakes, it TRIGGERS them. Movement of tectonics plates, volcanoes, loading and unloading the Earth's crust CAUSE earthquakes

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 251.

    Before making up your mind about fracking, check out this video on youtube or, better, watch the entire movie:

    http://goo.gl/lY7jH

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 250.

    "217.where am I
    Shale gas has led to a drop in US energy costs as well as a sizable boost to GDP."

    Indeed. But according to a report on the BBC site a few months back the cost of extraction in the UK means shale gas would be more expensive than importing, so there may be little, or no, benefit to the UK economy apart from a certain level of energy independence (for a while).

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 249.

    239 sixp

    "If major climate change occurs "ruining you sykline" is going to be the least of your worries."

    ..and a few windmills in Britain isn't going to stop it either.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 248.

    BBC Iplayer. Horizon program on Fracking is still there. Watch it and ask yourself if you really want it underneath you! Its an amazingly dumb idea and no I have not just based my input on this one source.

 

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