Straying into controversy
12th Aug 2019
You all know me well enough to recognise I rarely stray into areas of controversy, or challenge critics in a robust manner – that’s not my style. But this week I thought I would, it is August after all.
It is very lazy thinking and poor analysis to dismiss UK onshore produced shale as incompatible with NetZero. It could be or it might not be, but playing to the gallery is unbecoming of those involved in the serious business of decarbonisation in the UK.
I’ve read that because energy efficiency has reduced UK use of gas we don’t need UK shale. The real world, not Islington luvvie land, is more complex. Let’s look at UK gas demands. We currently use (according to the Future Energy Scenario) about 80 billion cubic metres of gas a year, with about 60 per cent imported. Under the FES scenarios, that import dependency will become more acute between now and 2050 and even under the “best case” scenario, will be 50 per cent in 2050 (it could be as high as 90). So there is a case to be made, on energy security grounds, that we need UK produced gas in the future. Whether that is onshore shale or UKCS, isn’t the issue. There is a jobs argument that can be made here too. UK jobs, paying tax in the UK or employment overseas, with revenue leaving the UK to pay for imports, but I’ll just park that for now, because the Islington test is carbon.
Firstly can we continue to use gas and still meet NetZero? This isn’t guaranteed but it needs to. Biomethane supply is vital but so will be CCUS. Frankly, without capturing and using carbon we won’t hit NetZero, so if the technology exists to do so, we can use gas. Similarly, for hydrogen conversion, CCUS is key for high volumes.
Secondly, is the assessment of whether UK produced gas is lower carbon, in its lifetime than imported gas? If the answer is yes it is, then the rational argument has to be, use it then to lower overall global carbon emissions. This is an objective measurement exercise that is straightforward to calculate.
If there are environmental concerns about shale extraction, as with any other industrial process, it needs to be addressed by the planning and control processes we have. But it is facile to say we don’t need shale without exploring whether it helps or hinders our route to NetZero.
Mike Foster, CEO