SEA advances case for shale gas
Decc has published the outcome of a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) that concludes unconventional gas could provide significant economic benefits
The SEA of onshore oil and gas exploration in Great Britain claims that shale gas production in the 2020s could boost energy security, contribute to economic growth, create thousands of jobs and plough almost £1 billion back into communities.
The independent study by consultants Amec sets out the potential economic and environmental effects of further onshore oil and gas activity by comparing “low activity” and “high activity” scenarios. The latter assumes that a substantial amount of shale gas is produced during the 2020s – 122–245 billion m3. Under this scenario, there would be beneficial impacts to the economy, such as supporting up to 32,000 jobs.
However, the SEA also warns that high levels of shale gas production could have potentially adverse impacts on the environment and communities, including an increase in traffic congestion, emissions and more pressure on water resources.
Hydraulic fracturing on such a scale could consume up to 9 million m3 of water a year, an increase of nearly 18.5% on the 48.5 million m3 of mains water supplied to the entire utilities sector annually, according to the assessment. The potential impact of large-scale shale gas extraction on the availability and quality of water, as well as on aquatic habitats and ecosystems, is uncertain, concludes the report.
It claims existing regulatory controls, including the planning system, should ensure that any adverse impacts are minimised, and energy minister Michael Fallon said effective regulation was vital to “unlocking the potential of shale gas” in the UK. “We must develop shale responsibly … with robust regulation,” he said.
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