Fracking’s potential and the prospect of shale gas making Britain self-sufficient in gas again is far-fetched, according to government-funded researchers.

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 clear 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. “Any talk of shale gas making the UK self-sufficient again, let alone allowing significant exports, is far-fetched,”

The report, A Bridge to a Low-Carbon Future? Modelling the Long-Term Global Potential of Natural Gas, suggests gas’s role as a quick fix to cut carbon emissions – gas emits significantly less CO2 than coal when burned – could be short-lived. Gas has been hailed by some advocates as a ‘bridge’ or ‘transition’ fuel as economies move to renewable energy and nuclear power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle climate change.

If Carbon capture and storage (CCS) doesn’t take off, to keep temperature rises under 2C as governments have agreed to do, the report’s modelling showed “the role that gas can play as a transition fuel was thus substantially reduced”. However, despite the short window of opportunity, the authors say the amount of coal that could be displaced by gas is significant in terms of cutting emissions. Dr Christophe McGlade of UCL, who led the modelling work, said: “Gas could play an important role in tackling climate change over the next 10 to 20 years.”

Development of UK shale gas has been slower than expected. Hydraulic fracturing to extract shale gas will not resume until 2015, the first exploratory fracking in the country since 2011.

from the Guardian

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