To frack. Or not to frack. That is not the question which the Scottish and UK governments should be asking themselves about recovering the estimated 40-50 years of shale gas reserves.
Instead, the question which government should be asking is; “How do we want to provide for our future energy needs?”
Prof. Zoe Shipton of Strathclyde University told delegates at the UK Shale Energy Conference in Glasgow that the decision-making process on whether to proceed with shale gas exploration should be framed in context of ‘our wider energy needs.’
She also cautioned politicians to be wary of public protests against shale energy. She said: “People have at some point or other protested about almost every form of energy – coal, wind, nuclear, renewables, geothermal.
“But even if we succeed in 100% de-carbonisation of the electricity generation industry, we’ll still need <shale> gas for heating our homes and fossil-fuels for the automotive industry.”
Ken Cronin, Chief Executive, UKOOG (the UK onshore oil and gas association) said that shale gas is part of the solution to the energy trilemma.
“We need to see more renewables. But what we don’t need is a polarised between of Renewables v. fossil-fuels or nuclear. Shale gas is no threat to renewables, nor vice-versa, as they meet different energy market sectors.
“So replacing gas is not a realistic option.
He agreed with Prof. Shipton’s analysis of the need for gas for the UK heating industry. He said: “North Sea gas production is falling rapidly and the UK is increasingly dependent on imported gas – we’re spending £18 million a day on imports.
“Without a domestic gas industry, the UK import bill will continue to soar while, in contrast, even if we only recover 10% of currently-identified shale gas resources, this will generate a 40-50 year industry, stimulating around £30 billion of investment and creating 60,000 new jobs.
“Instead of more US imports, UKOOG wants to see a British shale gas industry, creating British jobs and paying British taxes.
Tom Crotty, INEOS Group Director, said that shale gas has been a ‘game-changer’ which has transformed its US petro-chem refining business.
However, the warned that the gap between UK and US gas prices is making the UK business unsustainable – even though Grangemouth is the largest such plant in the INEOS group globally.
He said: “We’re shipping in tanker loads of shale gas from the US, which will keep Grangemouth going for 15 years or so. But we’re also looking to explore for our own Scottish shale gas.
“We also need renewables. We must have renewables. But we must also have shale gas as a bridge to de-carbonising the economy in the longer run.
The UK Shale Energy Conference 2015 was organised by the Scottish Energy Association and Scottish Energy News.