Climate crisis or the fuel of the future? Our panellists battle it outby Benny Peiser / June 19, 2014 / Leave a comment
Published in July 2014 issue of Prospect Magazine
Britain is on the cusp of a shale gas and oil revolution which could help to rejuvenate the economy and bring cheaper energy to millions of people.
Britain holds one of the biggest shale basins in the world. The British Geological Survey estimates that there could be 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas trapped below the north of England alone. In addition, there are huge reserves of shale oil that lie below many areas of the United Kingdom: recent estimates suggest there could 4.4bn barrels of shale oil in the Weald Basin of southern England and a new report suggests there are even bigger shale oil resources below Leicestershire.
In fact, there are many shale areas in Britain that have not been explored yet. And then there are the country’s gigantic offshore shale reserves which, according to the British Geological Survey, could be five to 10 times bigger than onshore reserves.
In its shale gas report in May 2011, the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee has applied a conservative recovery rate of 10 per cent to estimate the technically recoverable shale gas reserves. In America, however, advances in fracking technology have pushed the average recovery rate to almost 20 per cent. In some cases, up to 30 per cent of unconventional gas has been extracted.
Britain currently consumes around 2.7 trillion cubic feet of gas per year. If 15-20 per cent of the estimated reserves could be economically recovered it would provide Britons with up to 100 years’ worth of natural gas supplies at current consumption rates—offsetting the depletion of the ageing North Sea fields. It could reinvigorate industrial activity in the north of the country and create a new industry.