Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

MPs give green light to shale gas drilling

Shale gas drilling in the UK has been given the go-ahead by MPs in a new report looking at the impact it could have on water supplies, energy security and greenhouse gas emissions.

There had been concerns that the method could cause water pollution or high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. But an inquiry by the Energy Select Committee found no evidence that the hydraulic fracturing process involved in shale gas extraction – known as “fracking” – poses a direct risk to underground water aquifers provided the drilling well is constructed properly.

The committee concluded that there was no justification for a moratorium on shale gas drilling in the UK at present. However, the committee the Department of Energy and Climate Change to monitor drilling activity extremely closely in its early stages in order to assess its impact on air and water quality.

“There has been a lot of hot air recently about the dangers of shale gas drilling, but our inquiry found no evidence to support the main concern – that UK water supplies would be put at risk,” said committee chair Tim Yeo. “There appears to be nothing inherently dangerous about the process of ‘fracking’ itself and as long as the integrity of the well is maintained shale gas extraction should be safe.”

Shale gas extraction could reduce the UK’s dependence on imported gas, but it is unlikely to have a dramatic effect on domestic gas prices, according to the report. The British Geological Survey estimates that the UK’s onshore shale gas resources could be as large as 150bnm3 — equivalent to roughly 1.5 years of total UK gas consumption and worth approximately £28bn at current prices.

The UK’s potential offshore reserves could “dwarf” onshore supplies, however, and the committee called on the Government to encourage the development of the offshore shale gas industry in the UK.

Readers' comments (3)

  • Who's going to be embarrassed when the extent of the gas available in the UK and Western Europe is sufficient to meet future UK power generation and domestic and industrial heating requirements? The ICE, at least, given the recent pronouncements on intended carbon emissions and the need for even more Wind Farms!

    Remember using gas, which produces typically only 35% CO2 per unit power generated compared with coal, would provide an immediate reliable 65% reduction in power generation CO2 emissions and power at massively less cost than Wind Farm System unit power generated costs. Wind Farm Systems also need at least 90% rated capacity alternative standby power generation in any typical year to make up for the under-supply of Wind Turbines due to no/low/too high winds conditions and the extended periods of virtually no wind and hence no power output during winter peak power demand periods! In any year they also only provide, at best, only 30% of their rated capacity output.

    Remember also that a very significant proportion of this standby power during no/low/too high wind periods will be from Gas Turbines which is needed to accommodate the ever varying power outputs needed to balance the capricious and unreliable under performance of the Wind turbines at any time - as much as 70% Wind Farms rated output over any typical year. If all this standby power is by gas turbine then the actual Wind Farm system CO2 emissions are only 70% x 35% = 24.5% of the coal fired power station emissions, compared to 35% or so from using only Gas Turbines.

    All that massive increase in UK domestic and industrial/commercial power costs for grossly inefficient and over-expensive Wind Farms, for the sake of as little as a 10% increase in the reduction of existing CO2 emissions which in itself is only a proportion of the UK's CO2 emissions which in turn are only 1-2% of global CO2 emissions. Such "engineering", even if CAGW is a proven theory, and it isn't, is the economics of the madhouse, and totally unnecessary costs the UK and UK plc cannot afford!

    And what is the ICE doing about this? Nothing?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The answer to standby generating capacity could be much more pumped storage or cracking water to produce hydrogen. I was very disappointed when Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) were permitted to develop the Glendoe site without installing pumped storage. When the North of Scotland Electricity Board took over the adjoininjg Foyers Station in the 1940's the first thing they did was to convert it to pumped storage. Loch Ness virtually at sea level surrounded by high level lochs is ideal for such schemes.

    SSE are to be commended for their proposals to develop two pumped storage schemes with a combined capaciry of 1000MW on the opposite side of Loch Ness. Inaddition the porosed Craigroyston scheme on Loch Lomond should be re-activated.

    As regards hydrogen power, two years ago there was an electric hydrogen powered demonstration car driving around Edinburgh so it can be done.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Pumped storage by all means where possible, but that is generally not possible and will only improve system efficiency where and when Wind Power is in excess of current power demand, i.e.power wastage - a relatively rare occurrence. Hydrogen generation takes a prohibitively large amount of energy and doesn't address the above problems of grossly expensive Wind Power.

    I think you're missing the points raised!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.