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Shale gas reserves in the UK.

Updated on March 13, 2013

A recent review by an independent body for the UK government, has concluded that extracting Shale gas from below the water table can be safe if adequately monitored and regulated. The process of releasing natural gas which has been trapped in hard to extract levels of rock, offers many countries a way to increase their own reserves of gas. The trapped resource can be liberated by using the controversial procedure known as "Fracking". The process involves pumping high levels of water, sand and chemicals into shale rock at high pressure to create fractures and fissures. The gas can then escape and be used for power generation, becoming a cheaper alternative to North Sea gas.


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A markerwales -
Wales, UK
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Vast deposits of Shale Gas are laying deep under rock in South Wales

B markerBlackpool -
Blackpool, UK
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Surrounding area experienced tremors, possibly linked to fracking process

The United Kingdom could be following in the lead of Canada and the United States, both of these countries have increased their interest and investment in this abundant natural resource over the last decade. Analysts believe that one fifth of the United States power generation now comes from Shale gas reserves. By the middle of this century as much as 40% of its energy could be met by this fuel reserve. The exploitation of Shale gas by the North American countries has secured their own gas supplies well into the next century.

Shale Gas

Since the end of the Second World War the United Kingdom there has been a continued reliance on dwindling natural gas supplies from old North Sea fields. Recent estimates suggest over half of the usable capacity of oil and gas has already been used, and demand on the resources continues to grow. As an alternative many energy suppliers import more expensive supplies from Scandinavia and the Baltic states into places such as Easington on the North East coast. The cost of importing foreign gas into the UK, runs into tens of billions of pounds. Current progress within the United Kingdom has been hampered in recent years by environmental concerns and caution over the full effects of the tiny explosions used to release the trapped fuel. In 2011 work was halted on extraction due to two earth tremors in the area around the seaside town of Blackpool, the subterranean explosions used in the extraction were suspected as been responsible for the minor seismic events around the Lancashire resort.

The greater concern is over the harmful effects caused by the mining process on the water supplies for the local area. Many of the chemicals used in the process are recognised cancer causing agents, and leakage into the water table is an obvious risk. On top of the danger to local water supplies, many critics of Shale gas believe that it will contribute to further climate change due to its abundance and lower cost. Although Shale Gas represents greener energy than coal, oil or nuclear powered stations, it does not offer the clean renewable energy we see from solar energy or wind turbines.

Shale gas in the United Kingdom maybe a necessary evil, whilst longer term energy solutions are researched and implemented. In the last year alone we have seen delays in schemes such as the European backed North African solar array project by the Desertec initiative. By setting up powerful solar arrays in Morocco, they planned to transport solar produced electricity under the Mediterranean sea using under water power cables. Within the United Kingdom the general public have little affection for nuclear power stations near to their homes and opposition to further inland wind turbines construction is growing steadily.

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Is the exploitation of more fuel reserves essential, no matter the environmental cost?

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With billions of pounds worth of Shale gas untapped throughout the United Kingdom, the resource offers a viable stopgap resource while other alternative renewable fuels are found or new technologies are perfected to help lower emissions and reduce risks. The exploitation of the reserves would also boost the economies of regions which have never really recovered from the coal mine closures of the 1980's. With tight regulation and good practice, Shale gas could reduce the burden of foreign oil dependency for the next couple of decades.


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    • Asp52 profile image

      Asp52 5 years ago from England

      Thanks for commenting, it will give a boost to short term gas supplies in the UK. With Energy prices increasing year on year, it seems the most prudent move.

    • lenalena2013 profile image

      lenalena2013 5 years ago from Glasgow

      Voted interesting - thanks for sharing. As the UK government lifted the ban on hydraulic fracturing in the mid-December 2012, we can expect the shale industry in the UK to gather speed. Cuadrilla has already announced plans to resume their drilling activities in Lancashire.

    • Asp52 profile image

      Asp52 5 years ago from England

      Totally agree, it seems we are over dependent on other countries. We have known for years that a long term answer must be found. With Nuclear power unpopular and needing years to become active, all political parties have dragged their heels on the issue.

    • CMHypno profile image

      CMHypno 5 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      If the Government don't address the issue of power in the UK soon (should have been started at least 20 years ago, the lights will literally go off in a couple of years. All the windmills that are now blighting our landscape really won't cut it, and there are concerns that they make people ill and that they cause environmental problems of their own.

      Fracking for shale gas seems to be the best option at the moment, but needs to be carefully regulated so that the least amount of environmental damage is caused and we don't need any more earthquakes in Blackpool.

      Unlike the US and Canada, we are a small, densely populated nation so and shale gas production is going to be close to urban areas, so water contamination etc will have to be strictly monitored