UK Energy Minister Michael Fallon has announced a new onshore licensing round will take place next year, which will see companies apply for oil and gas exploration licenses in the UK. The new licensing round, the first to take place since the American shale gas boom in 2009, is expected to step up Britain’s shale gas programme and provide a further boost to the UK shale gas industry.
According to the latest report from the Institute of Directors (IoD) shale gas is going to be a huge contributor to the UK economy. The report, released at the end of May, claims investment in shale gas could peak as high as £3.7 billion per year and support up to 74,000 jobs. More importantly these jobs will be created where levels of unemployment are highest in the UK, such as in areas of the North West. The shale gas industry will support jobs across a variety of job sectors, including the UK’s chemical industry and wider manufacturing.
However, there are environmental worries over the controversial shale gas extraction process, known as fracking – which is where water is blasted beneath the ground to force the shale gas out. Evidence has emerged that if regulated in the correct way shale gas will prove to be a lower carbon form of fuel than other fuels imported from across the globe.
The report also points to some major areas for improvement if the UK shale gas industry is to be a success. The IoD criticises some of the processes which are holding industry development up, such as the planning and permitting regimes – which involve a total of four agencies and two public consultations before drilling and fracking can begin on one well. A simpler process will make the UK shale gas industry a more attractive prospect for exploration companies across the globe.