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Nick Butler: UK Shale Survey Full Of Holes

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Nick Butler, Financial Times

July promises to be a busy month in Whitehall Place, the home of the UK’s Energy and Climate Change Department. Unfortunately, however, despite the prospect of a flurry of activity it seems as if all key decisions will still be left on hold.

The Department has said that it will publish the first part of the British Geological Survey report on shale gas prospects in the UK in July. It will also publish some form of shadow, indicative pricing framework for the various forms of energy under the Electricity Market Reform proposals.

Both are profoundly unsatisfactory. Why is the BGS survey being published in parts? Why can’t we read the whole of the this authoritative study by a completely independent and well respected body? It was completed last year, is cautious and make no attempt to estimate what proportion of the resources it identifies can be developed commercially. The partial publication can only confuse the issue. As of now it is not clear whether the Department will publish a response to the BGS survey showing how shale gas development can fit into the UK’s future energy plans.

They will argue that without proper drilling and appraisal work it is impossible to know the impact. But if the BGS confirms that there is clearly a resource base, and if work clearly needs to be done, how can the Department push ahead with plans which leave little room for shale gas.

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