The UK should go ahead with fracking for shale gas as it could provide a “useful transition” to a low carbon long term future.
That’s the recommendation from the Shale Gas Task Force as part of its latest report exploring the impacts on climate change.
It believes shale gas should be explored as a potential source to meet the nation’s energy needs.
The Task Force, which is funded by the UK’s shale gas industry but operates independently, said evidence suggests “the impact of shale gas on the climate is similar to that of conventional gas and less than that of LNG”.
Currently, around 46% of natural gas use in the UK comes from the North Sea while the rest is imported from Norway (58%), the Netherlands (16%) and Belgium (7%).
The remaining 20% of imported gas is Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), mainly imported from Qatar.
In 2013, the UK recorded the highest level of imported energy since 1974 due to an ongoing decline in domestic oil and gas production, it added.
However it believes there should also be a “substantial increase” in the energy efficiency of homes and buildings in the country.
Carbon capture and storage
The report also suggests the UK should use revenues from the shale gas industry to fund the development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects to meet its emissions reduction targets.
“If a shale gas industry begins to develop at scale, CCS will become essential and a CCS industry should be developed and grown concurrently,” it said.
The Task Force is urging the government to “take a lead” in ensuring a more rapid deployment of the technology.
Lord Chris Smith, Chair of the Task Force on Shale Gas said as renewables “cannot meet the UK’s short term energy needs”, gas must play a role in the medium term.
He added: “Gas will be needed for several decades to come. But we make two strong recommendations to make sure this happens in the right way. First, there must be immediate progress in developing carbon capture and storage for gas-fired power stations and industrial plant.
“Second, we recommend the government should deploy revenue derived from a developed shale gas industry to investment in R&D and innovation in CCS and low carbon energy generation, storage and distribution.”
The Task Force’s previous report suggested the UK will need tougher rules to ensure the shale gas exploration process has minimum health and environmental impacts.
The final report, which will be published in December, will cover the economics of a shale gas industry in the UK, including community benefits and compensation.
Last month the UK Government offered new onshore oil and gas blocks for shale gas exploration.