A new report commissioned by energy secretary Ed Davey suggests that household energy bills could decrease as a result of extracting shale gas. But the government has been warned not to overlook fracking’s impact on water and its role in causing earthquakes.
The study, prepared by Navigant for the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), outlines that gas prices could fall by a quarter if shale drilling is given the green light.
These claims contradict Davey who said that the discovery and exploitation of shale is unlikely to bring down the price of gas.
However, there have been recent growing concerns over the exploitation of shale gas. Drilling in Lancashire was suspended after a small-scale earthquake was reported in Blackpool. A study in April by Durham University was described by campaigners as “surprisingly blasé” about the impact of such tremors.
Fracking firm Cuadrilla claims that the earthquakes from fracking are minor, and are unlikely to damage structures, but recent research carried out by Columbia University suggests that the energy extraction method could in fact ramp up the frequency of major quakes.
There are also concerns about the impact on water quality from fracking. Jim Marshall of trade body Water UK said, “There have been references in the US where shale gas has been blamed for poor water quality. It is such an integral part of the whole process [of fracking] and – if it goes off – water needs to be protected at all costs.”
He added that the process could contaminate water supplies with methane gas and other harmful chemicals.
The DECC-commissioned report identifies a number of “sensitivities” to the shale boom, including politics, public opposition and climate change polices.
Prof Richard Green of London Imperial College said, “Tapping into shale reserves has economic benefits in that gas doesn’t have to be imported. This keeps the price down.”
He added, “Shale extraction does however, have higher carbon emissions than alternatives such as renewables.”