The UK has a great opportunity to be a European leader in the development of shale gas, a parliamentary committee was heard today.
Professor Richard Davies of Durham University told the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee that many countries – particularly those in Eastern Europe which are rich in shale resources – are waiting to see what progress Britain makes on unlocking its own shale gas potential.
“The UK is respected in terms of our regulatory regime and other countries will be looking to see what we do. Eastern Europe will look to UK for leadership.”
His comments came as trade group UK Trade & Investment announced today that Poland – which is believed to have the greatest reserves of shale gas in Europe – offered “an unparalleled opportunity” for British firms in the shale gas and nuclear markets.
Prof Davies added that in the short term, shale gas offered a “wonderful research opportunity for academics”, not least because the lack of exploration work so far – drilling has only taken place in Lancashire in northwest England – meant that it was almost impossible to gauge just how much shale reserves lie under the UK and the North Sea.
“Drilling in Lancashire is like putting a needle into this room,” he told the committee.
Professor Nigel Smith of the British Geological Society agreed that estimates of the shale reserves in Europe were based on “next to nothing” because of the small amount of exploratory work carried out. He added that the technology to recover shale gas was “lagging behind conventional gas”.
The committee examined the huge success of shale gas in the energy market in the US. Paul Stevens of thinktank Chatham House said “the US shale gas revolution is an astonishing story of technological evolution” but warned: “The US shale gas revolution took 20 years and it will take longer in the UK.”