Shale Gas Revolution Spreads to Europe

Shale gas, accessed via hydraulic fracturing (an American innovation), is being discovered in many areas throughout the world adding to our energy security and lowering prices for consumers. The latest discovery, in the United Kingdom, is enormous:

Cuadrilla Resources believes there are 200 trillion cubic feet of “shale” gas in the Bowland basin, which could result in a Lancashire gas boom creating 5,600 jobs at peak production.

Shale is a type of onshore gas common in the US, which is extracted by blasting apart rock in a process called fracking.

More testing is needed, but the estimates suggest Britain could have more shale gas than Poland, which has been considered Europe’s biggest holder of probable reserves.

Recall that current U.S. estimates are somewhere between 275-376 trillion cubic feet of accessible shale gas, so this finding represents an enormous portion of the reserves the United States has available. It would be enough to offset U.K. imports for up to 30 years at projected usage rates.

Hopefully, European environmentalists will not be able to shut down or delay natural gas fracking in manners similar to the (limited) success they have had in the United States:

Two hundred trillion cubic feet is an unimaginably vast amount of gas. It is ten times more than all the gas known to be left under the North Sea. It’s one-fifth the size of the biggest gas field in the world, and the volume of 66,666 Royal Albert Halls.

The prospect of 400 gas wells across Lancashire and thousands of new jobs — not to mention all those tax revenues — couldn’t have come at a better time for the Chancellor. But there is one problem: in gas and oil exploration, if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Protesters who gathered in Blackpool yesterday say shale gas extraction in Britain is untested, expensive and dangerous.

The reality is that shale gas extraction has been widely tested and the risks are minimal with careful and responsible extraction. Finally, calling fracking “expensive” doesn’t make much sense, as the costs are borne by private companies rather than the taxpayer support provided for more expensive energies such as wind and solar. The shale gas revolution has certainly made natural gas much less expensive. 

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    There are almost a half a million natural gas wells in the United States alone.