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.