Britain pumped up by shale gas reserves

Hot topic: Protesters in London make their point. (Justin Tallis/AFP)

Hot topic: Protesters in London make their point. (Justin Tallis/AFP)

The United Kingdom is sitting on shale gas deposits that could supply the country with energy for 25 years, suggests an independent report that increases previous estimates for the controversial energy source.

New figures published on June 27 by the British Geological Survey (BGS) indicated that the amount of shale resources, mainly sitting under the north of England, will trigger a new dash for gas.

The BGS published a long-awaited report that suggested an area stretching from Lancashire to Yorkshire and down to Lincolnshire could hold at least 1 300-trillion cubic feet of gas.

This compared with the more modest figure of less than five trillion cubic feet that was produced only three years ago. It also covered a far smaller area — the Bowland region.

Energy Minister Michael Fallon said it would be "irresponsible" not to take advantage of a resource that had transformed the United States and could provide energy security, if not cheap prices, for Britain.

He promised favourable tax "treatment" similar to the kind that had built up the North Sea oil industry, and said there would be planning and safety regulations to match.

"This is the day that Britain gets serious about shale gas … [which] represents an exciting new potential energy resource for the UK and could play an important part in our energy mix," Fallon said.

Peter Styles, professor of applied and environmental geophysics at Keele University, said the find could supply the UK for decades.

"We still need to extract it and that is the next trick. But, if we only get 10%, that will be around 25 years of UK gas supply.
And by then we need to have worked out how we are going to power the UK in the long term."

Professor Mike Stephenson, head of energy at the BGS, insisted that the earlier figure had been just a "back of the envelope" projection, and admitted he was excited by the scale of the latest assessment.

He dismissed suggestions that there had been pressure from the government to come up with a large number.

However, he admitted it was still impossible to know exactly how much of the shale gas could be extracted.

Shale gas is extracted by pumping high quantities of chemicals, water and sand into dense shale rock to release gas that is then pumped to the surface.

Already blamed for causing earthquakes near Blackpool, the industry has been criticised by environmental campaigners. — © Guardian News & Media 2013

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