I recently came across a useful summary from an outfit called FTI Consulting covering opinions on the economics and safety of shale gas from a wide range of authoritative and respected sources. Given the huge amount of hysterical black propaganda from Green groups, it’s nice to have a bit of sensible, measured and positive comment. And bear in mind that while FTI may well be working for the industry (I assume so but have no certain knowledge) the sources quoted are not. Some, like the Institute of Directors, certainly have an interest in energy and related issues and may arguably favour shale gas development for that reason. Others like The British Geological Survey have no obvious commercial interest in the issue.
I am very conscious that some of the authorities quoted have taken a stance on climate issues with which I and my party take issue. These include the Grantham Institute, the Royal Society and, indeed, DECC. Nonetheless, their views on shale gas are worth noting. Just because we disagree with them on one issue, we do not necessarily assume that they are wrong on all issues.
I give some snippets that may be of interest, but I do recommend anyone concerned with the shale gas industry to read the whole document.
Jobs: Estimates from the IoD and consultants Pöyry range in the tens of thousands of jobs created for the UK and up to 800,000 across Europe. Pôyry predict reductions in import dependence and the IoD expects lower gas prices (than would otherwise be the case).
Environment: Needless to say the sources quoted all subscribe to climate change orthodoxy, and are concerned about CO2 emissions. DECC believes that local GHG emissions (including any leakage) will represent only a small proportion of the total, which will be dominated by combustion (but will of course reduce emissions to the extent that gas replaces coal). They expect the total carbon footprint of shale gas to be comparable to that of conventional gas. The IoD expects a switch from coal to gas to reduce the 29,000 annual UK deaths from poor air quality. The Grantham Institute (they would, wouldn’t they?) hints at the benefits of shale gas for balancing intermittent renewables.
Safety: The Royal Society stresses the need for robust implementation and monitoring of regulations, but finds that the risks of contamination from hydraulic fracturing are small. Well integrity is a more important but still manageable issue. Public Health England finds a “very low likelihood of groundwater contamination”.
Seismic Risk: Durham University’s Energy Institute says that seismic risks from fracking are not significant compared to the seismic effects of other human activities like mining, or filling reservoirs. The British Geological Survey “sees no reason why it (fracking) should not go ahead”. The Royal Society says “Seismic risks are low”.
Water usage: The Royal Society says that water usage “can be managed sustainably”, and looks to increased recycling and re-use of water to reduce consumption.
The broad conclusion from these findings is that fracking is as safe as any other industrial activity (and safer than many). There is really no basis for local communities to oppose shale gas development – rather they should welcome the associated economic development (the US experience is that property prices increase as shale gas exploitation brings in new businesses, jobs and money, and increases demand for homes). And the hysterical Green/black propaganda deserves to be ignored.