Comment on new estimates of UK shale gas
Commenting on the publication today of updated estimates by the British Geological Survey of shale gas in the UK, Samuela Bassi, policy analyst at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at London School of Economics and Political Science, said:
“These new estimates suggest that the UK may have larger proven reserves of shale gas than previously thought. Last year, the BGS indicated that the UK might have as much as 150 billion cubic metres of recoverable shale gas. Today’s updated figures suggest that the Bowland-Hodder Unit alone in northern England may have between 23.3 and 64.6 trillion cubic metres of shale gas in place, with a central estimate of 37.6 trillion. This compares with an estimate earlier this month by the United States Energy Information Administration that the volume of UK shale gas in place is 17.6 trillion cubic metres. It is very uncertain how much of this will be technically and economically recoverable, and the BGS, understandably, has not yet attempted to make a new prediction. However, the United States Energy Information Administration suggests that only about 4 per cent, or 736 billion cubic metres, of UK shale gas in place may be technically recoverable.
“There appears to be much confusion about the different types of estimates. The amount of gas in place, sometimes called resources, is the entire volume of gas contained in a rock formation, regardless of the ability to extract it. Technically recoverable resources refers to the volume of gas considered to be recoverable using currently available technology. Proven reserves is the volume of technically recoverable resources that are demonstrated to be economically and legally producible under existing economic and operating conditions.
“These higher estimates are good news for the UK, if the shale gas can be extracted safely and economically. It will increase the UK’s energy security and create new jobs. However, these new BGS figures do not indicate that there is enough shale gas to stop the UK being dependent on imports of natural gas, and so fuel prices for households and businesses will not automatically fall.
“In terms of the UK’s climate change targets, more shale gas could also be beneficial if it is used to generate electricity instead of coal, as we pointed out earlier this year in our joint report with Imperial College London. The UK’s greenhouse gas emissions increased by 3.9 per cent between 2011 and 2012, primarily due to a big rise in the amount of coal that was burnt in power stations. Ironically the increase in UK coal use is primarily due to higher exports by the United States as a result of its shale gas boom. Beyond 2030, the UK’s power sector will need to be radically decarbonised, so there will only be widespread use of gas-fired power stations if they are fitted with carbon capture and storage technology.”
Notes for Editors
- The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment was launched at the London School of Economics and Political Science in October 2008. It is funded by The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment.
- The Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy is hosted by the University of Leeds and the London School of Economics and Political Science, and funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council and Munich Re.
- The Grantham Institute for Climate Change was established by Imperial College London in February 2007. It is funded by The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment.