Developing the shale gas industry in the UK could attract investment of £33 billion and create 64,000 new jobs, according to a new report that environmental campaigners argue is “rose-tinted”.
The report, carried out by consultancy firm EY and commissioned by the onshore oil and gas industry body UK Onshore Operators Group (UKOOG), investigated how much spending would be required to exploit UK reserves.
It estimates that spending of around £33 billion will be needed to create around 4,000 fracking wells over an 18-year period. At its peak, the study says this supply chain would be able to provide around 64,000 jobs.
“This is a unique opportunity to secure the future of next generations of energy users, but industry and government need to take action now for the necessary infrastructure, supply chain standards and skills to be ready in time”, said Chris Lewis, the author of the report
The government has already begun its efforts to encourage a UK fracking boom, comparable to that of the US, by offering sizable tax breaks to the industry.
Commenting on the findings Michael Fallon, UK minister of state for business and energy, said the report was a “call to action”.
He added, “The message is to get ready for shale.”
However, scientists, environmentalists and governments across the world hold a number of concerns over the possible impacts of the fracking.
The process works by fracturing rocks with water and chemicals, releasing the natural gas contained within them. It has been linked to water contamination, leakage of the potent greenhouse gas methane and an increased risk of earthquakes.
Dr Doug Parr, chief scientist and policy director at Greenpeace UK, argued that the EY report was “a rehash of rose-tinted industry guesstimates.
“Paying accountants to tally up hypothetical jobs won’t change the fact that executives still have no idea whether they’ll actually be able to get gas out of the ground on a commercial scale in the UK,” he said.
“Scratch beneath the hype and this report is actually a veiled plea for government and taxpayer support for an industry that has stalled before even taking off.”
Some supporters argue that a shale gas revolution could help the UK cut its carbon emissions, aiding efforts to limit climate change.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) most recent study did concede that shale gas could play a role in decarbonisation, but only as a short-term option.
Instead, the IPCC say that a trillion-dollar shift in investment towards renewable energy is urgently needed.
According to the Renewable Energy Association (REA), there are already over 100,000 jobs across the renewable energy value chain. It argues that investing in renewables, rather than shale gas infrastructure, is the better bet.
“The shale gas industry has government’s unwavering support, and yet according to its own figures its potential for jobs is less than the renewables industry already achieves in the UK”, said REA head of public affairs James Court.
“Renewables are delivering today, while any potential benefits from shale gas are still some way off. Renewable energy is attracting investment, creating jobs, cutting costs, improving our energy security and preserving our environment.”
Photo: UKBERRI_net via Flickr