Chancellor George Osborne’s pledge to support the exploration of Britain’s shale gas reserves by offering ‘a generous new tax regime’ has been greeted by mixed views from the industry.
Obviously keen not to have all of Britain’s eggs in one energy basket, the move suggests that the fracking industry could play a critical role in the delivery of the country’s energy supply.
For some commentators the move to shale gas couldn’t come soon enough with many viewing ‘unconventional’ gas as a ‘magic bullet’ that will provide long-term energy security, cheaper energy tariffs for consumers and lower carbon emissions.
Shale Gas - An American Success Story:
The impetus for investment and exploitation of British shale gas reserves is fuelled by its success in America. Natural gas production in the US has risen by 28%(1) since it hit a low in 2005, with the bulk of this increase attributed to shale gas. Furthermore, by 2035, shale gas is predicted to account for 49% of America’s natural gas production(2).
As well as helping the price of natural gas to fall – gas prices in the UK are currently two thirds higher than those in the US – a further 3.6 million people are expected to be employed in the US energy sector by 2020(3).
CBI, the UK’s leading business organisation, came out in support of the Chancellor’s commitment to offer tax breaks to operators in the fracking industry, with Director General, John Cridland saying: ”It makes sense to maximise the amount of energy we can produce at home at reasonable cost.”
However, closer to home, the Lib Dem energy and climate change secretary, Ed Davey, suggested a patient approach was needed saying: “I want to base our approach on the evidence...Questions about regulatory oversight and the involvement of local communities need to be answered rather than simply dismissed.”
As an industry in its infancy it seems there is still much to learn about our shale gas reserves and its excavation to know whether it offers a safe, viable energy solution. A key concern in particular is the potential danger of earthquakes caused by the drilling process (hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’) as was experienced in Blackpool last year.
EDW Service Delivery Director, Graham Paul, said: “EDW welcome the Chancellor’s decision to offer tax breaks to encourage shale gas production, particularly if it opens up cheaper energy prices for UK consumers. It is too early to tell if shale gas production will be given the green light, however, consultation with all interested parties, from energy companies to community leaders, as well as learning lessons from America’s experience, is essential if this policy is to work.”
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Sources: 1, 2 & 3. Britain’s shale gas potential. Executive Summary by Infrastructure for Business (IOD) pg. 5
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