David Elmes tells ITV shale gas future unclear
06 June 2013
Professor David Elmes has told ITV that producing shale gas economically and in an environmentally sound way still needs to be demonstrated in the UK.
IGas has raised their estimate of shale gas within its licensed area across North West England from nine trillion cubic feet to a range of 15 - 170 trillion cubic feet. The UK's annual gas consumption is currently about three trillion cubic feet.
Shale gas and oil has revolutionised the US energy market, offering a chance for the country to become self-sufficient and reducing prices for industry and consumers. The energy industries in the UK and other countries have hopes for a similar transformation.
But Professor Elmes, head of the Global Energy Group at Warwick Business School, says it is early days and a lot more exploratory work needs to be done to confirm what’s economic and what can be produced in acceptable ways.
“How much shale gas can be produced commercially in the UK in ways that are seen as environmentally and socially acceptable is one of the big unknowns we face as a country,” said Professor Elmes on ITV Granada News. “We still need to resolve what gas can be produced, how much is there, and how to make sure it is produced in an environmentally sensitive manner and with an understanding of the communities it is in.
“It is true that shale gas production in the US has increased dramatically over the past few years and the resulting low gas prices have helped US industry and consumers. But not all the reasons why shale gas expanded so rapidly in the US can be expected to apply here in the UK.”
Shale gas is extracted by 'fracking', a process of hydraulic fracturing the shale rock by pumping in high-pressure liquids to release the gas. Past exploratory work has been linked to tremors in the Blackpool area, while campaigners have warned the chemicals involved could pollute water supplies.
“The Government put a moratorium on exploration after the tremors in Blackpool and they decided to lift that last December,” said Professor Elmes. “They also brought in a lot of new rules and regulations about what a company should do and how they should operate.
“It is good a company is prepared to invest in a programme of drilling to more accurately confirm the amount of gas they see as commercially viable, even with these stricter regulations. Shale gas is not going to be the answer to everything but it is going to be a useful part of the energy mix in the future.
“IGas and other companies have declared how much gas they think is there, but they are not even at the stage of saying how much they expect to produce. It is early days, exploring how much is there needs to be done carefully and only then will we know exactly what the potential is.
“Shale gas in the UK remains both exciting and controversial because we simply do not know what supplies it offers and at what price, both financially and socially.”
Professor David Elmes teaches and is head of the Warwick Global Energy MBA.