I just heard the best news in all the years I’ve been in Brussels. I’m told that there’ll be an announcement next week on shale gas, which will show that we have indigenous UK gas resources for decades at current rates of consumption.
I recently wrote about a presentation in Brux by Professor Alan Riley of the City of London University, in which he looked at the geo-political implications of recent fossil fuel developments. On Wednesday we had a lunch in the parliament, hosted by German Liberal MEP Holger Krahmer on the subject of shale gas. We heard presentations from the Commission (Marie Donnelly was uncharacteristically tentative in the face of sudden and major changes), and Dow Chemical. But the most exciting, for me, was another presentation from Professor Riley.
Professor Riley is expecting an announcement in London next week on shale gas policy for the UK. We in UKIP have been urging for some time that the UK should urgently investigate shale-gas, and it seems that the government has decided to do so. (I suppose they had to get something right sooner or later).
They will also make an announcement about the estimated reserves in the North West. We heard that the Marcellus shale at the heart of the US shale gas revolution is 350 feet thick. The shale beds in Lancashire are said to be an extraordinary 5000 feet thick. The estimated reserves are between 14 and 28 trillion cubic metres. On a conservative recovery rate of 10%, this would supply 15 to 30 years of current UK consumption. At the US recovery rate of 20%, that would be 30 to 60 years.
Professor Riley points out that this is bigger than the North Sea, or renewables. He adds that all the US experience suggests that once you get serious about shale gas, you find more and more. And he says that there is also off-shore shale gas exploration under way, which could greatly increase the reserves. He compares the importance of this announcement with the early 20th century transition from coal to oil. It will have a massive and positive impact.
We in the UK have the advantage that our gas distribution infrastructure is already in place. No gas well is likely to be more than 30 miles from a major gas main. Other countries might have to spend billions to develop such an infrastructure.
I understand that Chancellor George Osborne, who has been widely reported to be in favour of gas, is preparing to offer tax breaks and incentives to develop our indigenous gas fields. (BWEA please note: a tax break is not a subsidy).
Gas on this scale could well have a transformative effect on the British economy, and make us much less dependant on imports. It will hopefully mean jobs, and growth, and prosperity. As Maggie Thatcher famously said, “Rejoice! Rejoice!”.