Re-invest shale gas revenues in carbon capture and renewables says task force

Revenues from a new shale gas industry should be reinvested in carbon capture and storage and low carbon energy generation to ensure that the UK meets its long term climate change commitments a new report has found.

The study from the Task Force on Shale Gas, which is financed by energy firms, says that the resource could be a useful transition tool to a low carbon future if government policy recognises this. “From the evidence it is apparent that renewables cannot meet the UK’s short term energy needs. Gas must play a role over the medium term. The relative climate impact of shale gas is similar to that of conventional gas and less than that of liquefied natural gas (LNG).  It is also much better than coal,” said Lord Chris Smith, chairman of the task force.

Figures from a Department for Energy and Climate Change study quoted in the report find that extracting shale gas has a climate impact of 200-253g of carbon dioxide emitted (CO2e) per kWh of chemical energy. Gas from conventional sources is estimated at 199-207 CO2e/kWh and LNG 233-270g CO2e/kWh. When used for electricity generation the shale gas impact rises to 423-535g CO2e/kWh (e) compared to 837-1130 g CO2e/kWh (e) for coal.

"There must be immediate progress in developing carbon capture and storage for gas-fired power stations and industrial plant."

Lord Chris Smith, chairman, Task Force on Shale Gas

Lord Smith called for investment from the potential shale gas industry to be reinvested in low carbon energy solutions. “Gas will be needed for several decades to come.  But we make two strong recommendations to make sure this happens in the right way.  First, there must be immediate progress in developing carbon capture and storage for gas-fired power stations and industrial plant.  And second, we recommend that the Government should deploy revenue derived from a developed shale gas industry to investment in R&D and innovation in CCS and low carbon energy generation, storage and distribution.”

The report was welcomed by organisations such as the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) and the industry body UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG). “CECA has long argued that the UK Government must commit to a long-term U.K. energy strategy which does not deter badly needed investment and the recommendations published today are a sensible part of the solution,” said Alasdair Reisner, chief executive of CECA. UKOOG said that the benefits of utilising shale gas warranted UK wide policies to encourage markets to prioritise indigenous resources and technology in pursuit of carbon reduction.

Despite being financed by energy firms the Task Force on Shale Gas maintains that its position is independent and says that energy firms have no influence over the findings. It was launched in September 2014 to provide an impartial, transparent and evidence-based assessment of the potential benefits and risks of shale gas extraction to the UK and its chairman is the former chairman of the Environment Agency.

“Everyone has a right to make their own personal decision on the issue of shale gas on the basis of trusted and factual information. The guiding principle of the Task Force remains to provide that information,” said Lord Chris Smith, “With this third report the Task Force has reviewed evidence, visited shale gas sites and met with experts and communities, all of which has informed our climate change recommendations. We look forward to the public’s response.”

Its third publication follows on from findings reported in July which assessed potential impacts of the industry on local environments and health. This called for tighter standards and more rigorous regulation of the potential shale gas industry. An initial report into planning, regulation and local engagement, published in March called for the creation of a new independent regulatory body to bring together the current fragmented system.

The Task Force will publish its final report in December 2015 covering economics, together with its final conclusions and recommendations.

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