Shale gas ‘has less impact than imports’

The report by Lord Smith of Finsbury, chairman of the Task Force on Shale Gas and a former Labour cabinet minister, recommends that shale gas could play a role as a “bridge” to a low-carbon future in which renewables and nuclear energy are increasingly important, reports The Times.

It says that the carbon footprint of shale gas extracted and used in Britain is likely to be in the range of 200g to 253g of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour of chemical energy produced — modestly higher than for British natural gas extracted via conventional methods, at 199g to 207g, but lower than the carbon footprint of LNG, at 233g to 270g.

LNG imported from Qatar and elsewhere has a growing place in the UK energy mix. However, the process of freezing and liquefying the gas so that it can be transported by ship and then regasified at a terminal in Britain is energy-intensive, using about 13 per cent of the energy contained in the gas.

The report says that “the climate impact of liquefaction and shipping cannot be beneficial. If nothing else, the creation of a domestic shale gas industry will reduce the wider climate impact of the transportation and other energy costs of LNG.”

The report, which was financed by the shale gas industry but claims to be independent, also recommends that taxes and revenues from shale gas extraction should be invested in research and development of renewables and other low-carbon technology, including carbon capture and storage.

“The long-term future has to be renewables and low-carbon, but it’s going to take time. Gas will have to be part of the energy mix for the next 30 years or so,” Lord Smith said.

“Shale gas can provide a sensible part of the mix, but it has to be seen as a bridge to a low-carbon and renewables future. To make sure its impact is minimised and that it is genuinely a bridge, not a substitute, the government needs to get on with carbon capture and storage, because that is absolutely crucial in the use of gas over the course of the next 30 years or so.”