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Durham University

Durham Energy Institute


Clearer picture needed if UK intends to develop its shale gas resource

(4 December 2014)

A clearer picture of the UK’s geology is needed if it is to develop its shale gas resource, a Durham University expert has said.

Professor Andy Aplin, Professor of Unconventional Petroleum in the Department of Earth Sciences, was commenting after Chancellor George Osborne announced during his Autumn Statement that the Government was taking steps “to ensure that the UK leads the way with shale gas regulation”.

Professor Aplin, who is also the Director of Durham University’s CeREES Centre for Geoenergy, said: “Today’s Autumn Statement suggests that 'shale gas could increase the UK’s energy security, support thousands of jobs, reduce carbon emissions, and generate substantial tax revenue'.

“Any and all of this depends on the amounts of gas which can be produced economically, which is currently unknown due to the almost complete absence of exploration wells.

“For the same reason, the size of any proposed long-term investment fund from shale gas revenues cannot be estimated, and indeed there are no details in the statement about how the fund might be gathered.

“However, even on a ten year timescale, the amounts of gas are likely to make only a small difference to the UK’s dependence on imports and energy security.

“If the UK intends to develop its shale gas resource, we need a clearer picture of what is beneath our feet. This clarity would also help support potential for capturing and storing carbon dioxide, and exploiting UK geothermal heat sources.

“The government’s decision to invest in subsurface test sites is therefore welcome, especially if those sites are open to the public.

“Likewise, the decision to provide modest funding so that independent evidence can be provided directly to the public about the regulatory regime makes sense. We need to make decisions about a difficult energy future based on good quality scientific data, and in an open and transparent manner.”

Find out more about research at Durham into Geo-energy and Unconventional Hydrocarbons.