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.


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

    Comment number 287.

    This is hardly a green announcement as it still involves the resultant gas being burnt. How can this be any more use than burning coal, of which we have far more reserves and the extraction of which will create far more jobs.

    Surely using Nuclear as a back up in lieu of night time, no wind, no tides etc. and leave gas/coal where it is

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    What makes you think we would know what chemicals are being used?"

    "... monitoring of water quality?"

    Water quality is monitored constantly by water co's
    "Do you think local communities ... right to sue when it all goes wrong?"

    Don't sign anything/take money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    Something else the wind farm protesters will not want.

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    258. ericsmiff

    You might like to proof-read your contributions so that it doesn't come across as mindless gibberish.

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

    Who said they would? There's no "silver bullet" solution just a lot of technologies that may or may not help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    Who knows Long Term Effects of Raping Planet of this shale gas, of course energy companies say it is safe, has their been an independent inquiry on the safety? As for the cost, my prediction is there will be no savings for us, profits for the Frackers (no pun intended).
    As for the £100,000 BRIBE offered to local communities. What happened to this Govs GREEN AGENDA? Roads + shale gas top priority

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    Why do you think one of the other headlines today was "Energy and roads get share of £100bn. How much of that do you think is going to the roads, that we already pay (supposedly) to keep maintained?

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    This is where the real world clashes with the ideal world. It may be ideal to have totally sustainable clean energy but the reality is the lights will go out if we don't do something and we'll all be living in mud huts. There are environmental issues with all energy production so what's new? At least this way we are dependent on imported energy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    If you believe Shale Gas will result in cheap electricity you are a fool.

    Nuclear promised the same. It didn't deliver.

    It might result in some rich people getting richer but your energy bills are not going down.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    What effects will pumping chemically laced fracking fluid in to the ground have on the fresh water in those regions?
    Can the Govt guarantee the released gas is all captured? because methane is far more harmful in the environment as a greenhouse gas than even CO2.
    Why not invest £ to find technical solutions to the energy crisis instead of permanently harming the ecosystem for a short term fix.

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    @210 this country isn't worth living in because it's not as opulent as Dubai or somewhere?

    Have we really become so spoiled that we can't see how lucky we are? Try telling a person in war torn Africa that this country isn't worth it. I'm sure they'd happily swap with you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    "Grow up, or get some Prozac."

    The fact that it is a coincidentally a Tory government (mainly) is irrelevent. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has to be brought down, you can't do that by burning gas.
    Also a grown up attitude would be to accept the science and act on it no matter what political tribe you like.

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    249. tonep

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


    If everyone takes this attitude nothing will ever change.

    We have control of our own decisions.

    We can take an approach to energy conservation, renewables and population control that can safeguard our energy supply cleanly for future generations.

    More CO2 pollution is not the long term answer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    brilliant news, create jobs, and get prices down. we are in fuel poverty and earn a bloody good wage. my 6 monthly bill for gas was £1300 . we use wood burners in the house, re glazed, re insulated blah blah blah but the unit price is so high. its a joke. rip off brtian as per ! get fracking guys !

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    Let's face it, the government will ignore public opinion and side with big business and frack the hell out of any green spots left in the country.

    Tax payers will pick up the bill for any problems. As is becoming the custom, society gets the least benefit, but most liability.

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    Isn't this just a pay-off by Osbourne? so fracking can go ahead big time.
    I find it scary that we are even considering this as viable, its fracking with mother nature and she will pay us back sooner or later.

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    @137. Pricklyghost
    This idea of removing the gas causing instability is complete nonsense as a propant is injected during the process that fills the tiny cracks created and prevents subsidence. This propant is usually in the form of ceramic or silica balls.

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    As someone who lives in Lytham St Annes I am concerned about long term effects and potential environmental damage. Aggressive commercial organisations will use any tactic necessary to drive this commercial opportunity - including the unlikely carrot of cheap fuel. HMG's 'paltery bribe' is a disgrace and shows their allegiance lies with interested companies not the communities affected..

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    Fracking was outlawed because it caused earth tremors nowhere near fault lines.

    The resources are being repeatedly exaggerated. The costs of extraction is being repeatedly underestimated.

    There will be far greater cost to local communities than "for example, at least £100,000".


    It is not a reliable energy source for more than 3 or so years and

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    No doubt that the Troglodytes will shuffle out of their caves emit a large grunt of disapproval throw a few rocks and start beating the bongos of doom ! and shake their hairy faces pointing to the cave paintings of mammoths which have become extinct due to global warming. ugh !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    215 Sean - I have no doubt that lobbying does occur in the form of blogs and websites, but actually paying people to post on sites like this? That just seems a bit of a stretch to me. Unless it's just "extracurricular" work for the bloggists. Even then, it just seems a bit of a waste of time.


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