Exploiting the UK’s shale gas reserves is no ‘silver bullet’ for the country’s future energy security but will bring economic benefits, said the Institution of Mechanical Engineers yesterday.
In a policy statement, the engineering institute said a ramping up of the shale gas industry in the UK would create thousands of skilled engineering jobs over the next decade and build expertise that could also be sold abroad.
Over a ten-year drill programme, some 4200 jobs a year would be created, says the Institution, with 1300 in Lancashire alone.
But the statement cautioned that the development of shale gas must be coupled with the carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology on gas-fired power plants.
“Shale gas has the potential to give some of the regions hit hardest by the economic downturn a much-needed economic boost,” says Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the Institution and lead author of the statement.
The statement also calls on the government to accelerate the improvement of the environmental regulatory framework to ensure that exploitation of shale gas is done safely.
But while shale gas could make a “helpful contribution” to the UK’s energy security, it is “not the silver bullet that many claim it is”, says Fox.
“It is unlikely to have a major impact on energy prices and the possibility that the UK might ever achieve self-sufficiency in gas is remote,” he says. “A general over-reliance on gas will render the UK a hostage to volatile global energy markets.”
Fox says that the government must develop a “balanced” energy portfolio that includes renewables, nuclear power and fossil fuels with CCS.
For further information:
Fracking safe if done right, say UK experts (29-Jun)
IEA sets out rules for ‘golden age of gas’ (31-May)
UK Environment Agency gives OK to fracking ‘if safe’ (9-May)
UK shale gas deposits twice as large as thought, says IGas (4-Apr)
19 September 2012