For the first time since 2008, the British government is inviting companies to bid on new licenses for oil and gas exploration. It hopes these new tenders will kick off a shale boom in the UK that might mirror, or at least imitate, the recent revolution in the U.S. The FT reports:
The opening of the first tender process in six years will open up swaths of the countryside to the controversial practice of shale gas extraction, from Scotland and the northeast to parts of the south coast.Matthew Hancock, business and energy minister, told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme on Monday that it “would be irresponsible not to explore” to unlock the potential of shale gas in Britain because it had the potential to provide “greater energy security” given that North Sea oil reserves are declining.
The Cameron government, wary of environmental opposition to the controversial drilling process, will protect national parks, world heritage sites, and locations of “outstanding natural beauty” from licensing, except in the case of exceptional circumstances.But a lack of licenses isn’t the only thing standing between Britain and American levels of shale success. Despite having some 1.3 quadrillion cubic feet of shale gas, and billions of barrels of tight oil trapped in shale as well, the UK hasn’t been able to achieve commercial production from any of its shale formations. Like China, Australia, and others, Britain is finding it difficult to replicate the unique set of circumstances that led to explosive growth in oil and gas production across the pond. But while geological complexities, technical difficulties, and Not-In-My-Backyard local resistance will remain, this latest round of licensing is undoubtedly a step in the right direction for the UK. At a time when European energy security is shakier than ever, any news about progress on domestic energy production is good news.