UK shale gas production revolution unlikely
17 July 2012
Michael Bradshaw, professor of human geography at the University of Leicester, told the annual conference of the Royal Geographical Society in Edinburgh on July 3 that his research showed there were still many practical issues to overcome before domestic shale gas production would reverse the UK's increasing dependence on imported gas.
Professor Bradshaw said circumstances in the UK and USA were so different the UK was unlikely to see the same kind of shale gas expansion as had happened in the USA.
Issues including lack of regulatory capacity, planning issues and environmental considerations were just some of the factors that were likely to put a brake on the growth of shale gas in the UK, he said.
Comparisons with the USA were invalid, he added, because apart from it being a far larger and less densely populated country, the legal and regulatory regime there and the fact that landowners retained subsoil rights made for a far more friendly environment for shale gas operators.
In the UK, most subsoil rights are retained by the crown so there is less of an incentive for a landowner to allow drilling.
Bradshaw, who wrote a report for Friends of the Earth in April outlining how the UK would continue to rely on imported gas, said many of these issues had been acknowledged by government, but the debate was still too focused on environmental issues, and had not moved beyond that.
He said: "There is a high degree of risk and uncertainty associated with every element of the UK's energy strategy - whether that's energy efficiency, renewable energy, or carbon capture and storage. Coming together these could result into an ever greater reliance of gas, at a time when its price is likely to increase because of growing demand from countries including China and India."
He argued that this second ‘dash for gas’ was part of a ‘perfect storm' of multiple failures developing around UK energy policy.