September 7, 2011 2:12 am

Shale gas has huge potential

From Mr Ed Osterwald.

Sir, I refer to David Blair’s article “Search for UK shale gas resources begins” (, August 31).

I believe the importance of shale gas for the UK and European Union countries has been underestimated. Admittedly, the geology of western Europe, as well as its legal environment, are markedly different from those of the US. It would, however, be foolish to dismiss the potential of shale gas when exploration has hardly started. Paul Stevens of Chatham House, who is quoted in the article, is overlooking the fact that without shale gas the EU will continue to be increasingly dependent on imported gas and on foreign gas resources. This raises critical questions about the EU’s future gas supply security, given its dependence on a small number of suppliers. Even with the potential diversity offered by liquefied natural gas, more than half of the EU’s gas imports originate from just two countries, in Algeria and Qatar.

The development of shale gas resources across the EU from Poland to the Irish Sea has the potential to raise gas reserves and production radically in western Europe. In North America shale gas is now estimated by the US Energy Information Administration to contribute more than a third of the total recoverable gas resource in the US, up from only 8 per cent in 2008.

The article also raises questions about environmental concerns associated with shale gas development. The experience in the US has so far been successful at managing impacts and preventing any interaction between hydraulic fracturing and clean drinking water. A recent study by Duke University set out to find such interaction, but did not find a single instance.

Given the uncertain future of energy procurement or production in the EU and the UK, I think every encouragement should be given to this new and potentially revolutionary source of gas.

Ed Osterwald, Managing Director, Energy, Navigant, London EC2, UK

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