UK urged to focus on shale gas drilling

House of Lords inquiry favourable to shale gas saying it “would reduce imports and help maintain security of supply”

By 2030, the UK could be importing £15 billion of gas yearly to meet three-quarters of its needs. Photograph: AP Photo

By 2030, the UK could be importing £15 billion of gas yearly to meet three-quarters of its needs. Photograph: AP Photo

Thu, May 8, 2014, 01:00


Exploratory drilling to investigate the size of the UK’s store of shale gas must take place quickly, or else there will be regrets in a decade’s time when gas prices could have doubled, a House of Lords inquiry has reported.

The warning comes after the Irish Government has said there will be no moves in Ireland until a study by the Environmental Protection Agency is completed in two years.

In its report, favourable to shale gas, the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee said shale is not “the answer” to all the UK’s energy challenges, but it “would reduce imports and help maintain security of supply”.


Words vs action
However, the British government has not matched its rhetoric with action to persuade communities to accept drilling: “Here in the UK we have not left the starting gate,” the report says.

Problems with regulation have meant the UK’s Environmental Protection Agency has received “not a single application” for test drills since a moratorium – after tremors caused by drilling in Lancashire – was lifted in 2012. Insisting some objectors would oppose fracking even if they got all the changes demanded, Lord MacGregor, a member of the cabinet in the late 1980s, said: “If we do not get our act together people will ask in a decade’s time why we didn’t.”

Regulation should be tough, but easy to understand. However, attempts “to simplify” the rules have not gone far enough: “Our report shows that unnecessary duplication and diffusion of authority are still rife.”


Energy security
The report goes on: “The UK . . . has its own shale gas resource. The question is whether the UK is to be a producer, or simply an importer. [But] progress on the ground has been at a snail’s pace, while industry and officials come to grips with a dauntingly complex regulatory regime.”

By 2030, the UK could be importing £15 billion of gas yearly to meet three-quarters of its needs – with the security issues such dependence on foreign supplies creates. However, shale gas could meet half that figure.

The EU imports a quarter of its energy, and over 30 per cent of its gas, from Russia: “Recent events in Ukraine and the resulting tensions between Europe and Russia demonstrate how real these risks are.”