According to David Mowat, Britain on Cusp of Shale Revolution
According to David Mowat—MP from the Warrington South area—the entire United Kingdom seems to be abuzz with speculation over a so-called shale gas revolution. Indeed, a quick survey of British headlines reveals talk of England’s energy problems being over, and of the nation joining the United States on the road to total energy self-sufficiency. According to Mowat, there is indeed reason to rejoice over the nation’s previously-underestimated shale riches, but there are also many complexities to consider. A recent MoneyWeek article confirms these points. David Mowat has issued a new statement to the press, commenting on the article and on Britain’s shale reserves more broadly.
According to David Mowat, it is essential for Britain to avail itself of its energy resources as quickly as possible—for economic reasons but also for environmental ones. “ There are many millions of cubic feet of gas under Warrington and Cheshire,” he notes, in his new statement to the press. “It is imperative for these incredibly, vast reserves to be evaluated and exploited as quickly as possible, for several reasons—namely, to reduce energy bills and also to minimize carbon emissions.”
The MoneyWeek article, meanwhile, notes that “there could be lots more shale gas under Britain’s green and pleasant land than anyone had previously expected.” This would seem, on the face of it, to confirm Britain’s standing on the cusp of a shale revolution, but as the article makes clear, there are myriad factors to consider.
Certainly, there is reason to believe that Britain has more shale gas, buried beneath its lands and oceans, than ever before. There is also evidence enough to speculate that England, like America, could begin moving down a path toward energy independence.
“By now, most MoneyWeek readers will be familiar with the US shale gas ‘revolution,’” the article notes. “Advances in drilling technology mean that natural gas (and oil) which was once locked away in ‘shale’ rock formations, can now be released. The technique used is ‘hydraulic fracturing’ or ‘fracking’. This involves pumping [pressurized] water and chemicals into the rock and blowing it apart.”
This technology has made a huge impact on the US’ oil and gas fortunes. In fact, MoneyWeek notes that, in terms of how much energy it produces, the US may soon become the new Saudi Arabia.
This has not necessarily been great news for natural gas companies, as their prices have fallen dramatically, though it is a boon to many industrial companies that use copious volumes of natural gas. More to the point, it has been a major economic benefit to consumers in the United States.
“The trouble is, because natural gas is not a global market, it’s only really the US that has benefited from this bonanza,” MoneyWeek contends. “So while America has enjoyed cheap gas, the rest of us are still paying through the nose.”
That may change, though, in the near future—at least for the people of Britain. The article notes that years of eclectic government energy policies have left the UK in a precarious position—one in which many consumers and business owners are scaling back on their “dirty” energy consumption, but have no clean or abundant alternatives to replace it with. The article even goes as far as to say that, from an energy standpoint, what the UK needs is “a miracle”—hence, the widespread excitement over a potential shale boom.
Britain currently consumes about 3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas each year. As of 2010, it was estimated that the total British shale gas reserves contained around 5.3 trillion cubic feet—hardly a vast amount. Now, though, more and more experts are suggesting that the UK has more shale energy deposits than anyone ever imagined.
In fact, recent estimates show that the Bowland Shale deposit, in the northwestern part of the country, could contain as much as 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, all on its own. This finding has rightly been heralded as a “game changer.”
In fact, some speculate that, if indeed Britain has this much shale gas locked in its reserves, and if all of this gas can be exploited, the nation may be able to forgo importing gas for decades to come.
There are many factors that make this shale revolution anything but a sure thing, however, beginning with the fact that, just because the gas is there, that does not mean it will be possible for it to be uncovered. In fact, it is possible that as little as 1.5 trillion cubic feet will be recoverable—not a piddling amount, by any stretch, but also not enough to solve all of the UK’s short-term or mid-term energy problems.
Another potential problem is the problem of England’s population density. Says MoneyWeek, “the population density in the UK is much more challenging than in the US. America has 34 people per square kilometre. Britain has 257.” In other words, there are far more people who might object to a local drilling spot, making the local politics of all this quite complicated.
The article’s bottom line is that, in terms of energy production, the UK could use some good news—and this hypothetical shale boom may or may not be it.
David Mowat is an MP from Warrington South, and he is zealous about finding responsible solutions to the UK’s energy crises.
Previously Global Managing Partner for Energy with consultancy Accenture, David Mowat was elected to the UK Parliament in May 2010. His interests include banking reform, energy and climate policy, and the regional economies. Since September 2012 he has been Parliamentary Private Secretary to Greg Clark the Financial Secretary to the Treasury.
I graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison. I am the contributing editor to USA Herald. I love to write about the truth and topics that really spark my interest.