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 947.

    The argument against wind seems to be that the turbines look ugly - which at any rate is a matter of perspective - what I really don't get is why a great big fracking tower is any better. Could it be that the willfully blind, deaf and dumb simply fear that green energy means they might have to be a bit more responsible?

  • rate this

    Comment number 946.

    1 Minute ago
    Well, at least this means we might not have to build another completely useless wind farm to appear green...


    Don't forget the power needed to turn the blades so that they appear to be working.

  • rate this

    Comment number 945.

    Well, at least this means we might not have to build another completely useless wind farm to appear green...

  • rate this

    Comment number 944.

    Why wouldn't your gas bill reduce if there was a surge in gas production? It's basic economics. In the US, gas fell from over $13 in 2008 to under $2 last year, largely down to the surge in shale gas production.
    And as well as increasing private energy companies' profits, it would give a massive boost to the UK tax take. Oil and Gas is probably the most heavily taxed sector in the economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 943.

    What's more they think it could last more than 10 years? Well well well, lets just sack of the wind farms, solar, and tidal investment which last forever and keep making the same short sighted choices. If we do this it at all it should be state owned and the money should go into an investment fund for the people, like Norway's oil and that should be invested in renewables..

  • rate this

    Comment number 942.

    Come off it everyone-haven't you all learnt by now that we can't trust anything that the politicians and their propaganda pushers say about this.

    On the Jeremy Vine show we had someone being pushed as a "knowledgeable expert" from a University, who basically said there are no problems with this system and wouldn't accept that things have gone wrong in the past.

    It's all smoke and mirrors again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 941.

    free energy also allows u 2 see in the dark


    How do we see in the absence of light?

  • rate this

    Comment number 940.

    1% of the income from our own resources, what kind masters we have in the tory party...oh and then the privilege of buying the gas back from the energy companies in the modern equivalent of rack renting. I'm buying candles I can't afford all this 'fracking' good news.

  • rate this

    Comment number 939.

    We have access to free energy all around us and it is clean. check out ted talks justin hall tipping freeing energy from the grid.We don't have it because the very same thing that creates free energy also allows u 2 see in the dark & that creates an issue with our defence. Thus the Fear mongering machine controls our prosperity our future is bright if we can get fear out of the driving seat!

  • rate this

    Comment number 938.

    The major part of the cost of anything either directly or indirectly is labour. Gas generated in this country means that more of that labour cost is in the UK. Thus reducing imports raises the tax take even if it doesn't reduce energy costs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 937.

    2 Minutes ago
    Its happening in the south too ... they want to destroy sussex too !!! Why does this map not show sussex on this?


    Because this topic is about Northern England.

    The locations in Southern England were shown in an earlier article.

  • rate this

    Comment number 936.

    Its happening in the south too ... they want to destroy sussex too !!! Why does this map not show sussex on this? What of the wild life? The air pollution is horrific around fracking sites! Why are the environment agency not doing their job properly? They already allowed illegalities to happen both in the north and here in sussex. Who is at the end of the money trail? A few MPs no doubt!

  • rate this

    Comment number 935.

    millions of gallons of toxic substances into this water which will be locked into our ground water for 1000s of years to come. First get educated join
    BIFF ! (Britain & Ireland Frack Free)


    You assume that the methane bearing structures already couple to issues of ground water. If, they did, would not the methane have escaped?

  • rate this

    Comment number 934.

    Jailing the officers and workers of a company that has broken rules and brought about continuing pollution isn't going the shut the holes after the event.

    No arguments from lawyers are going to clean up the mess from subterranean leaks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 933.

    I passed a new housing estate today, upmarket with prices to match. What was missing? Well it wasn't a fracking plant but no solar panels fitted to a roof either. If all new builds had to fit the complete solar packages with the ability to sell back what you don't need to the utility companies with the economic benefits to the household, and a programme of retrofit next, we wouldn't need fracking!

  • rate this

    Comment number 932.

    I urge all of you please before you agree to anything that involves drilling up our beautiful countryside and pumping millions of gallons our water where on earth is this coming from ? our reservoirs! and also millions of gallons of toxic substances into this water which will be locked into our ground water for 1000s of years to come. First get educated join
    BIFF ! (Britain & Ireland Frack Free)

  • rate this

    Comment number 931.

    If you prefer ships bringing us gas from half way round the world and charging usis inflated prices fixied by the OPEC pricing fixing cartel then -

    leave our gas where it is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 930.

    @ J Panton, okay after a bit more research I agree that gasland is the extreme end, but it is still an issue. However I've just been watching this and it seems a more neutral argument from Dr Ingraffea to an audience of Pennsylvania

  • rate this

    Comment number 929.

    418. Stanley66
    What's your science qualification to say water contamination is overblown? Knowing government legislation it could be driven through with a coach & horses & US contractors would ignore them anyway. Less intrusive than windfarms? They are like small mining or quarrying sites! Fuel security? It's reckoned that "Sources could sufficient for a decade or more". That's 10 years Stanley!

  • rate this

    Comment number 928.

    Solar has no disadvantages.
    Everyone can afford it nowedays.
    30.000 MegaWatt of solar was installed in 2012

    We simply don't need fracking.


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