UK to launch shale gas licencing
London, December 18, 2013
Britain will launch its latest licensing round to allow companies to explore for shale gas in early summer and it forecast high interest, showcasing Britain as one of Europe's main contenders in the race to exploit shale gas resources.
Geological studies show Britain to have large shale reserves that could reverse a rising dependency on energy imports, but more drilling is needed to see whether the deposits are economic as gas has not yet been proved to flow from the rocks.
Unveiling an environmental assessment on the impact of further shale drilling in Britain, Energy Minister Michael Fallon said yesterday he expected strong demand for the licensing round scheduled for mid-2014.
"We could be doubling the amount of onshore licences in this round," Fallon said, adding the government expects to issue 50-150 licences.
The round, Britain's 14th tender to open up onshore areas, has been delayed by around four years after the licensing process was suspended in 2010 following earth tremors caused by shale gas exploration in Lancashire, northwest England.
The government's support for shale development comes despite strong local and environmental opposition to the controversial extraction practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, used to develop shale and unconventional gas blocks.
Engineering consultancy AMEC, which published the environmental assessment for the government, estimated a maximum of 2,880 wells could be drilled under the new licensing round, each producing roughly 86 million cubic metres over a 20-year lifetime.
"Today marks the next step in unlocking the potential of shale gas in our energy mix," Fallon said, adding that in a high-activity scenario, Britain could produce more than three times the country's current gas demand in the 2020s, creating up to 32,000 jobs.
"But we must develop shale responsibly, both for local communities and for the environment, with robust regulation in place," he added. Before the licence round is given the green light, the government must consider responses to its environmental impact report as part of a consultation that will be open until March 28.-TradeArabia News Service