Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Britain's shale gas miracle

It was through The Register that I first learned of the potential of shale gas, but recent finds have exceeded expectations, as the GWPF report:
Last week the drilling company Cuadrilla Resources announced that it had discovered an estimated 200 trillion cubic feet of shale gas under a small patch of land in the north-west of England. The find suggests that Britain has considerably more shale gas resources than earlier estimations predicted – possibly by an order of magnitude.

Despite the fact that typically only around 10-30 per cent of gas locked in shale formations is recoverable, the astoundingly large discovery may turn out to be one of the biggest gas finds in the past decade.
And there could be more ...
Britain may be sitting on a huge gold mine of cheap, abundant and comparatively clean energy that could supply the UK's energy needs for a century or more. No wonder then that a growing number of MPs want the North Sea to be at the heart of a new offshore shale gas industry.

The knock-on effects of a shale gas revolution could be just as staggering: cheap energy would make UK manufacturing more competitive, gas and electricity bills would fall significantly and the rising trend in fuel poverty could be reversed. If there ever was a potential silver bullet to tackle Britain's economic and financial problems, shale gas has placed it on the government's table.
What could go wrong?
Vested interests have turned against shale, using flawed and misleading environmental arguments to protect their market share. Chris Huhne in particular is renowned for his uninhibited antagonism towards natural gas. At the Liberal Democrat party conference in Birmingham last week he promised to halt a new "dash for gas" because it would undermine the UK's unilateral climate targets.

Huhne's main concern, however, is not CO2 targets that could be met quite adequately if Britain were to switch from coal-fired to gas-fired power generation. His real apprehension is that if a significant amount of cheap shale gas were to enter the UK market, it would almost certainly deter investment in expensive renewables.
The story has also been covered by DK and James Delingpole, neither of whom mince their words.

Andrew Orlowski's coverage concludes on a pessimistic note:
Environmentalists are the political establishment, and the UK's planning and regulatory regime are designed to make cheap fossil fuel innovation much much more expensive than it need be.
But the good news is that the shale gas will still be there if and when we ever get a sensible government in Westminster.

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