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Up for shale: Fracking lobby claims UK gas could draw $55bn in investment

Published time: April 24, 2014 13:02
Edited time: June 27, 2014 08:18
Demonstrators hold banners during an anti-fracking protest in central London (Reuters / Neil Hall)

Demonstrators hold banners during an anti-fracking protest in central London (Reuters / Neil Hall)

The exploitation of the UK’s shale gas reserves could create thousands of jobs and draw over $55 billion in investment, a report says. The British government has championed the practice of fracking despite protests over the environmental consequences.

A study published by Ernst & Young and commissioned by shale gas trade body UK Onshore Operators Group (UKOOG), estimates the exploitation of shale gas in the UK could bring 33 billion pounds ($55 billion) of investment and 64,000 jobs. The UK is thought to have abundant resources of shale gas, especially in the North which is estimated to contain around 1,329 trillion cubic feet, many times more than the annual gas consumption of 3 tcf.

To extract the hidden resources a controversial process known as fracking has to be employed. The practice entails the pumping of water and chemicals thousands of meters under the earth into fissures in the rock to release gas deposits. Reports by environmental groups have shown the practice can have detrimental effects on the environment, contaminating local water supplies and causing minor earthquakes.

Fracking was discontinued in the UK in 2011 after the practice was connected to several minor earthquakes close to the northern city of Blackpool, the largest of which measured 2.3 on the Richter scale.

Despite the environmental concerns, British Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to “go all out” for shale gas exploitation. He has championed the process as a way of drastically lowering energy bills in Britain and well as stimulating job creation. However, UKOOG has said billions of pounds of investment will be required in order to establish the necessary infrastructure in Britain.

“We are building an industry in this country which will not only give the UK energy security and make a big contribution in tax revenues but will also bring immense benefits to other industries and create sustainable, well-paid jobs,” Ken Cronin, UKOOG chief executive said to the Yorkshire Post.

Activists have attacked the report, branding it “rose-tinted” and unashamedly in favor of the fracking industry.

"This report is a rehash of rose-tinted industry guesstimates about the economic potential of fracking in the UK," said Dr. Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace. "Paying accountants to tally up hypothetical jobs won't change the fact that executives still have no idea whether they'll actually be able to get gas out of the ground on a commercial scale in the UK.”

Like many opponents of the controversial shale gas extraction technique, Parr wants the government to redirect more resources to developing renewable energy technology.

The practice of fracking has received a widely negative reputation elsewhere in the world. The US has seen mass demonstrations by victims of its chemical fallout, accompanied by studies showing spikes in hereditary conditions found in newborn children of families living anywhere near a fracking well.

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