French oil company Total set to lead stampede in UK shale gas gold-rush

Total oil logoFrench oil company Total will today confirm its purchase of a major stake in companies pioneering the shale oil gas revolution in the UK.

The move follows a series of recent announcements – as reported in Scottish Energy News by UK Energy ministers encouraging large-scale private sector investment in the shale oil industry, highlighting that no new environmental and/or safety regulations are required in a ‘red-tape rich’ EU regulatory environment and that the US ‘shale gas revolution’ is a game-changing development in global energy prices.

The deal by Total, to be formally announced to shareholders on the London Stock Exchange today, will be seen as a major vote of confidence in the UK’s fledgling shale gas industry – despite a number of local protests by environmental groups.

Total is due to acquire a major share in the Uk shale gas exploration licence in the English Midlands, currently operated by eCORP. The other partners in the project are UK-listed Igas, Egdon Resources and Australia’s Dart Energy – which is seeking to drill for coalbed methane-gas in the Airth coalfield, near Stirling.

The recent boom in US shale gas means the price of natural gas is now three to four times cheaper in America than in the EU. This has driven down energy costs for householders and simultaneously sparked a renaissance in heavily energy-dependent US manufacturing industries.

The UK government estimates that there is as much as 1.300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas in the 11 home counties in and around London – equivalent to more than 50 years’ supply.

Shale gas drilling is prohibited in France.


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The geo-politics of energy – like the mighty seas and constantly-shifting desert sands –  is endlessly interesting.

On an international level, the developed nations are warmly embracing climate-change orthodoxy as a proxy for weaning their economies off expensive, constantly rising (over time) and unreliable Middle East oil and Russian gas.
On the UK domestic front, could the onset of a British (or ‘English’) shale gas revolution truly mean that the Conservative-led Coalition government can afford to ‘discount’ the possibility of an independent Scotland – which has international legal rights to 98.8% of UK Continental Shelf (home to ‘Scotland’s North Sea oil’) – in the knowledge, hope, or belief (or all three) that England’s Shale will outlast Scotland’s Oil?
This theory posits that in another 30 years’ time (by which time ‘Scotland’s oil’ may (after much early, premature and specious prediction) have finally run out – Scotland will be left oil-less and, ergo, truly a ‘too poor and too stupit’ economic basket-case which will (‘once again’) have to go cap in begging hand for a share of England’s mountainous shale oil wealth?
If so, it would partially explain the perplexingly low- if not lacklustre, ‘Save the Union’ -profile of the Conservative party in the ‘Better Together’ campaign.
While this may seem unlikely – we all know no politician can ever look beyond their next election – does anyone have any other realistic long-term geo-political-economic explanation?
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