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FT: Time To Release Britain’s Trapped Shale Gas

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Editorial, Financial Times

The country’s big shale gas holdings need to be explored

Among the infrastructure projects touted by the UK coalition government this week as part of its plan to “seize the recovery”, few have the capacity individually to transform the country’s prospects. While vital to keep Britain’s economic machinery turning, road-widening schemes and railway upgrades are not game-changing.

It is precisely because of their catalytic potential that the large reserves of shale gas now known to exist under large parts of the north of England are so exciting. Figures released this week by the British Geological Survey estimate that 1,330tn cubic feet of gas may be trapped in the so-called Bowland shale basin.

True, “gas in place” – the metric used by the BGS – is not the same as commercially recoverable reserves. But applying a recovery rate of 5-10 per cent – numbers the British government has in the past cited – would imply the country may have reserves sufficient to meet up to 50 years of demand. Even if only a small part could be lifted, it would still represent a hugely valuable resource for the UK….

Nonetheless, Britain cannot afford to leave its shale unturned. Cheap and reliable domestic supplies of energy are not a luxury. They are a vital lubricant if the economy is to be rebalanced away from financial services.

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