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Wednesday 25 April 2018
25 April 2018 - NEWS UPDATE
Climate Change

Davey: shale gas development will not affect climate change targets

Ed Davey today made the case for the safe and responsible exploration of shale gas in the UK, in line with the UK's climate change targets.


A fracking site: Photograph Cuadrilla

In a speech to the Royal Society, Davey said that if shale gas could be developed in an economically viable and environmentally friendly way, it would benefit the UK - increasing energy security, providing more jobs and tax revenues.

Davey was responding to the findings of a new report which estimates that the carbon footprint of UK produced shale gas would likely be significantly less than coal and also lower than imported Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).

The report by DECC Chief Scientific Advisor Professor David Mackay FRS and Dr Timothy Stone, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State, assesses the potential greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the production of shale gas in the UK and the compatibility of such emissions with the UK's legislated climate change targets.

With the right safeguards in place, the report concludes, the net effect on GHG emissions from shale gas production in the UK will be relatively small.

In order to ensure that global cumulative GHG emissions to the atmosphere do not increase, worldwide shale gas production needs to be accompanied by additional international emissions-reduction efforts, including a global deal on emissions reductions and additional effort to develop low-carbon technologies such as Carbon Capture and Storage, (CCS).

Speaking at the Royal Society, Mr Davey said: "Gas, as the cleanest fossil fuel, is part of the answer to climate change, as a bridge in our transition to a green future, especially in our move away from coal.

"We have to face it: North Sea gas production is falling and we are become increasingly reliant on gas imports. So UK shale gas could increase our energy security by cutting those imports.

"Home-grown gas, just like home-grown renewables and new nuclear, also provides jobs for our people and tax revenues for our society.

"Nobody can say, for sure, how much onshore UK shale gas resource exists or how much of it can be commercially extracted, so we can't bank on shale gas to solve all our energy challenges, today or this decade.

"We must make sure that the rigorous regulation we are putting in place is followed to the letter, to protect the local environment. We must pursue vigorously the development and deployment of technologies that will reduce emissions to protect the planet."

Responding to the Mackay/Stone Report published today, Mr Davey said: "This report shows that the continued use of gas is perfectly consistent with our carbon budgets over the next couple of decades. If shale gas production does reach significant levels we will need to make extra efforts in other areas. Because by on-shoring production we will be on-shoring the emissions as well. And, as this report recommends, we will still need to put in place a range of techniques to reduce emissions.

"I strongly welcome these very sensible recommendations and we will be responding positively and in detail shortly. The report from Professor MacKay and Dr Stone puts another piece of the puzzle in place.

"It should help reassure environmentalists like myself, that we can safely pursue UK shale gas production and meet our national emissions reductions targets designed to help tackle climate change.

"Let me be clear – here at home we must not and will not allow shale gas production to compromise our focus on boosting renewables, nuclear and other low carbon technologies.

"UK shale gas production must not be at the expense of our wider environmental aims – indeed, if done properly, it will support them. I am determined to make that happen."

DECC Chief Scientific Advisor Professor David Mackay added: "Our study indicates that shale gas, if properly regulated, is likely to have a greenhouse gas footprint no worse than the other fossil fuels that society currently depends on.

"To ensure that shale gas exploitation doesn't increase cumulative greenhouse gas emissions it is crucial that society maintains efforts to drive down the costs of low- carbon technologies, including carbon capture and storage."

Dr Tim Stone said: "Shale gas could be a very valuable asset for the UK both in terms of energy and wider petrochemical uses. It is important that in exploiting this asset we do so responsibly and build public trust.

"The debate in the UK around shale gas needs to be based on facts and not strenuous assertions. This report should help provide some clarity around some of the facts of shale gas.

"It sets out part of the responsible approach to its exploitation from a greenhouse gas perspective and consistent with government's commitment to protect the wider long-term public interest."

Shale gas is an 'unconventional' gas. Its composition is essentially the same as conventional gas but it requires extensive fracturing of the source rocks to extract it.

Industry is exploring the amount of shale gas that might be safely and economically extracted in the UK, but as yet, no companies have permission to exploit shale gas resources through fracking.

One study of the potential shale resources available has been conducted by the British Geological Survey for the Bowland Basin area in the North of England. This suggests that the resource is likely to be considerable (mid-point estimate 1,300 trillion cubic feet). However, without exploration, it is not yet known how much of this gas could be safely, technically or economically extracted.
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