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BP Energy Outlook 2030 says shale gas will have limited impact in UK and Europe

22 January 2013

BP chief economist Christof Rühl, quoted in the oil major's Energy Outlook 2030 forecast, said the group foresaw “extremely limited growth” in shale gas in Europe. “Europe has various problems: environmental concerns, outright bans on fracking, a lack of infrastructure and a long tradition of not minding so much having to import things,” he said.

BP says the impact of shale gas in Europe will be limited, despite the optimistic forecasts of fracking enthusiasts
BP says the impact of shale gas in Europe will be limited, despite the optimistic forecasts of fracking enthusiasts

This compares with the US, which was likely to become a net exporter of gas by 2017.

Advocates of shale gas, which is extracted by the process of 'fracking’, hope it can transform the UK energy landscape, heralding a new era of cheap energy as it has in the US. Chancellor George Osborne has said Britain should not “be left behind as gas prices tumble on the other side of the Atlantic”.

Shale gas would play a role only nearer to 2030 and “only to a very small extent”, Rühl said. “I think that is also the story for the UK. There will be some projects starting here, maybe earlier than on the continent, but it’s not likely to be a big game-changer in the natural gas market, where we have these declines in the North Sea to compensate.

“It takes years to actually generate and unlock shale production in Europe, where infrastructure is so much less developed than it was in the US. It takes an enormous amount of drilling and rigs to unlock shale,” he said.

BP’s report found that the EU’s production of shale gas might reach only 2.4bn cubic feet per day (bcfd) by 2030 - compared with about 20bcfd in the US currently. European shale gas therefore would not be “enough to offset the rapid decline of conventional gas production”. Europe would see a 48pc increase in net imports over the period.

Meanwhile US shale gas output was forecast to continue to grow significantly and would “continue to dominate” global shale gas production by 2030, BP said.

Its growth was bolstered by a series of “above ground” factors including the world’s largest rig fleet and a favourable land access regime. By 2030 global shale gas production will reach 74bcfd, out of total world gas production of 459bcfd.

The rise of unconventional resources - both shale gas and also so-called 'tight oil’ would redefine expectations for major economies and “rebalance global trade flows”, BP said.

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