Fracking won’t propel the United Kingdom to energy self-sufficiency anytime soon, if ever, according to a new report. Scientists are saying the idea that it would is “far-fetched,” and in so doing are pouring some cold water on shale hype in the UK. The Guardian reports:
[A] new report by academics at the Imperial College-based UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) says significant shale gas production in the UK is unlikely to get underway until next decade and will not reproduce the American ‘shale revolution’ that has put the US on course to energy self-sufficiency. […]The authors are unambiguous that shale gas will not reduce energy prices or reduce the UK’s reliance on gas imports, which are mostly supplied by Norway and Qatar today.
The UK is the EU’s biggest hydrocarbon producer—first in oil, and second in gas—and until last year it was a net exporter of those fossil fuels. And while the UK has sizable conventional gas fields and some very promising shale finds, it’s been a net importer of natural gas since 2004. Last year, domestic production met just 35 percent of the UK’s gas needs, so the notion that shale gas might somehow displace all of those imports would seem a bit dubious even without this latest report.That’s especially true when you consider the problems the UK is facing in developing its reported 1.3 quadrillion cubic feet of shale gas. The country’s geology is much more complex than America’s, making horizontal well-drilling and hydraulic fracturing much more difficult. Bureaucratic red tape and lackluster support for drillers have further complicated fracking efforts, to say nothing of vociferous local protests.There’s plenty of gas trapped in the UK’s shale formations, and as fields in the North Sea continue to decline in output as they mature, those onshore reserves will become more and more important for energy security. Politicians have their own reasons for getting carried away and exaggerating the potential positive impact of shale for the UK, but this report reminds us that fracking, especially outside of the U.S., is no panacea.