Scientists cast doubt on UK shale gas potential
Shale gas isn't the game-changing energy source that many are predicting according to new research.
Speaking at today’s annual international conference of the Royal Geographical Society in Edinburgh, professor Mike Bradshaw will present findings that reveal significant exploitation of gas shale is “unlikely for many years, due to substantial logistical and environmental challenges”.
In the US, shale gas has proved to be game-changing, causing gas prices to plummet. Some have suggested there is potential for the UK to become one of the biggest shale gas producers; Cuadrilla, the energy company, claims there is 200 trillion cubic feet available.
But Bradshaw is not convinced. He will warn that there is a “perfect storm” of multiple failures developing around UK energy policy.
“There is a high degree of risk and uncertainty associated with every element of the UK’s energy strategy – whether that’s energy efficiency, renewable energy, or carbon capture and storage.
“Coming together these could result into an ever greater reliance of gas, at a time when its price is likely to increase because of growing demand from countries including China and India.”
In recent years the UK has become ever more dependent on the import of gas to supply growing energy needs, presenting risks for future energy security.
A report last week from the Committee on Climate Change warned the Government against a second “dash for gas” which will be more costly for energy users in the long-term. Environmentalists and MPs have also criticized the Government for a lack of policing around exploration.
DECC is currently working with the British Geological Survey to carry out a definitive survey of how much shale gas is under the UK.
While it’s unlikely that the impact will be as considerable as it has been in the USA, there is potential for gas shale to provide some of the UK’s energy needs – if it can be extracted without hefty economic and environmental costs.
Speaking to edie, professor Richard Davies, director of the Durham Energy Institute, explained: “Shale gas is unlikely to be the main solution to the UK’s future energy needs, but with the appropriate regulation and safeguards it could very well play a part – thus far the geology looks good.
“It’s had a dramatic impact in the USA, but licensing there is different from the UK and this has allowed for a very fast expansion. The rate of deployment seen in places like Pennsylvania in the last seven years is very unlikely to be matched in the UK.”
Last month, Environment Agency chairman Lord Smith backed shale gas extraction – also known as ‘fracking’ – as “highly attractive for our energy needs” provided it could be carried out at “reasonable cost”.