In September 2011, Cuadrilla announced it had discovered 200 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of Gas in Place within the Bowland Shale in Lancashire. If even a fraction of this could be extracted at a commercial rate then this could have a positive effect on the UK's energy mix.
As an untapped energy resource, natural gas from shale has the potential to:
- boost the UK’s gas production
- reduce the UK’s dependency on expensive foreign energy sources
In the last 10 years, the price of gas in the US has dropped to just a third of its original price, due in part to the increase in production of natural gas from shale.
“Fundamentally we are very concerned about security of (energy) supply.”
Ofgem Chief Executive Alistair Buchanan, 2nd February 2012, Reuters.
Relying on imports
The decline in production from the North Sea has seen the UK become a net importer of gas since 2004.
This means that we are heavily reliant on gas imported from overseas.
During the first three quarters of 2011, Qatar provided two fifths of the UK’s total gas imports, up from a quarter over the same period in 2010. This makes the UK energy consumer more vulnerable to disruptions in supply from a politically unstable region.
The first three quarters of 2011 saw a 40% increase in liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports over the same period in 2010, making UK energy consumers more exposed to global price volatility and increasing costs.
Recovering the considerable natural gas resource in the Bowland shale would mean the UK did not have to rely on often volatile parts of the world for its gas supply.
Click the image above to enlarge
Renewable energy has a vital role in diversifying the UK’s energy mix over the coming years. At present though, we do not have enough renewable energy to replace other forms of supply.
Current estimates by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) indicate these will account for, at best, 15% of our energy use by 2020.
Natural gas from shale should act as a transition fuel allowing time for Government and industry to develop renewable sources more effectively.