Studies by the company have shown that there is between 15trillion and 170trillion cubic feet of shale gas in the north west of England
It’s controversial with the public, it represents unexplored territory for UK gas suppliers and it could be a hard nut to crack. But shale gas could also be the answer to the country’s gas needs for the coming years – and according to research carried out by iGas, there’s a lot more under our feet than previously thought.
Studies by the company have shown that there is between 15trillion and 170trillion cubic feet of shale gas in the north west of England, with the most likely figure hovering around the 120trillion mark. That’s a huge amount of gas, especially when you consider that the UK’s consumption currently stands at around 3trillion cubic feet a year. So even worst-case numbers represents a good five years’ worth of supply, effectively disengaging the country’s reliance on overseas imports.
And that’s just one company’s expectations – others are in the running too and their findings all back up iGas’ estimates that shale gas deposits in the UK could be vast.
The numbers just keep going up…
iGas’ estimations could be just the tip of a very big iceberg, though, and a report by the British Geological Survey makes iGas’ figures look distinctly conservative. The report, released by the government, estimates that shale gas supplies across 11 counties in the north of England could be a colossal 130trillion cubic feet – and that’s just in one part of the country.
But shale supplies don’t just represent gas independence for the UK; they could also mean a big boost in employment and a shot in the arm for UK companies who are already realising the potential of this supply. Shale gas has already helped the US shore up its economy, and as one UK parliamentarian commented: “Unless God is an American, and has only put shale gas in the United States, it is inconceivable, or extremely unlikely, that this technology won’t have an impact on supply and demand elsewhere.” And ‘elsewhere’ most definitely includes the UK.
Companies currently competing to extract the gas report that only around 15% will be recoverable, but with more reports coming in all the time of increasingly larger deposits, even that percentage could be enough to make the UK self-sufficient in gas for the foreseeable future. The country currently imports around 1.5trillion cubic feet of gas.
iGas is about to commence test drilling, and more companies are jumping on the shale bandwagon, thanks to a series of tax breaks given to shale gas companies by the Chancellor. Restrictions on fracking are being lifted, and the industry is finally – albeit cautiously in light of public suspicion surrounding the process – moving forward.
Part of the plan to re-introduce shale gas extraction is to make it an attractive proposition to communities, with a package of incentives on the table. These will include £100,000 for communities situated near each exploratory (hydraulically fracked) well, and 1% of revenues from every production site. There’s also a ‘Charter’ that offers a commitment to consult openly and honestly with communities at all stages, including in advance of planning permission applications.
And not before time, believe industry watchers. “We cannot go on thinking that relying on other countries to supply us with gas when we have such a vast potential deposit right underneath our feet is good economic sense,” comments Graham Paul, Director of EDW Technology Limited. “We need to take a far more pro-active approach to managing the reserves we have right here in the UK. If the government is serious about helping all sectors of British industry climb out of recession and into full-blown recovery, then they need to embrace this opportunity and support businesses who want to explore the potential of shale gas,” he adds.
There is also the issue of securing a long-term future for energy production to deliver to the public, as coal-fired power stations power down. “There’s a big gap left in our energy supply matrix left by the demise of coal power,” says Graham Paul. “Coal plants account for 40% of the electricity generated last year. Unless we embrace shale gas as a viable alternative, once the dominance of coal finally comes to an end, an awful lot of the public are going to be left quite literally in the dark,” he concludes.
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