Shale gas as a viable and economic source of energy fuel is a largely debated matter in the United Kingdom. It has met opposition from environmental groups, but the government has supported the development of the industry. In the recent budget and flagship climate plan, the U.K. government did not mention shale gas, and it was taken as a hint that its support for fracking is cooling down.
Former Chancellor George Osborne and former Prime Minister David Cameron were big supporters of shale gas during their time in the office. Current Prime Minister Theresa May has also promised to develop the shale gas industry in the U.K. However, the incumbent government has been quiet about fracking in the past months. In addition, it introduced new tax reliefs for offshore oil and gas fields, which encourage continuous extraction of oil and gas in the North Sea, per The Guardian.
Renewables undercuts the need to exploit shale gas
In 2016, energy generated from renewable sources accounted for nearly 25 percent of the total electricity generation in the U.K., according to data from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. MP James Heappey, the head of an internal policy committee on energy, also pointed out the boom in renewable energy such as wind and solar, as well as clean tech. This makes it questionable to need shale gas as a bridge fuel from fossil fuel toward the transition to renewables.
There is no consensus in terms of how much shale gas the U.K. potentially has. Although, a report back in 2012 suggested many places in northern England could hold about 1,327 trillion cubic feet of shale resource, per Wired UK. In August, a group of geologists warned that the U.K. may not have as much shale gas as it is first believed because of the impact of tectonic shifts 55 million years ago.
Professor John Underhill, a chief scientist at Heriot-Watt University, said that shale layers in Britain may not be an economic source of gas at all, adding that the country’s geology is unsuitable for shale oil and gas production.
UK government releases white paper on shale industry
Following the speculations on its probable declining appetite for fracking, the U.K. government released a white paper, which shows support for the shale industry. Titled “Industrial Strategy: Building a Britain Fit for the Future,” the government affirms that the shale gas industry can offer tens of thousands of jobs in the region, help improve the competitiveness of the downstream sectors and build up supply chains.
The government said in the white paper that it will support the development of the industry and that it is also working on a proposal for a Shale Environmental Regulator. The sector, through its trade body UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG), welcomed the government’s support.
“Domestic shale gas production has the potential to secure the UK’s energy supply by reversing our increasing reliance on gas imports, providing benefits for both our economy and the environment,” UKOOG Chief Executive Ken Cronin said, Rigzone reports.
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