Shale gas is not a “game changer”
Recently, in a speech entitled “Decisions on fracking will be based on scientific evidence” before the Royal Irish Academy (RIA), DCENR Minister Pat Rabbitte said: “whatever decisions are taken must be based on transparent assessments of solid evidence.”
He went on to say: “the shale revolution is indeed a game-changer the effects of which must be considered on this side of the Atlantic.”
Solid evidence from the US indicates, however, that the “shale revolution” has not been a “game-changer” there.
As the Canadian geologist J. David Hughes and others have demonstrated (see Shale Gas Bulletin Ireland issue Nos. 1, 2 and 4 and the presentations given by Dr. Hughes and Dr. Werner Zittel at “Behind the hype: the economics of shale gas in Europe” on May 14 in Brussels), the high capital requirements of shale gas development mean that a long-term supply of plentiful and cheap shale gas is not a realistic expectation. Production from the best US shale plays is already stagnant or in decline. As Dr. Hughes put it in a January 2012 article, “Growing, or even maintaining, U.S. oil and gas production will require an increasing level of inputs in terms of the number of wells drilled, the footage drilled, the capital investments required, and, likely, the large amounts of collateral environmental damage incurred.”
The numerous graphs presented in a Business Insider article illustrate that, despite the hype, the shale gas boom has had a very small (0.07%) effect on US GDP growth.
Could shale gas be a “game-changer” in Europe? Even representatives of the petroleum industry do not think so. As this well-documented article explains, this is the general view regarding the prospects for shale gas in Europe. Moreover, a comprehensive EU Parliament report from 2011 concludes that even intensive shale gas exploitation would not make much difference to the overall energy situation in Europe: “These (unconventional gas) wells would contribute less than 5 per cent to the European gas production over the next decades, or 2-3 per cent of the gas demand. Even continuing the development rate at that speed (400 additional wells per year) would only marginally increase the production further, as the steep decline rate reduces the production by almost 50 per cent within one year if the development of new wells were to be stopped.”
Minister Pat Rabbitte TD, “Decisions on Frackign Will Be Based on Scinetific Evidence” (17 Apr 2013). www.dcenr.gov.ie/Corporate+Units/Press+Room/Speeches/2013/Ministers+speech+at+the+Information+Session+on+Fracking+at+Royal+Irish+Academy+in+Dublin.htm
Presentations by Dr. Hughes and Dr. Wener Zittel at Wishful thinking: Debunking the Myths of the Shale Gas Boom www.foodandwaterwatch.org/pressreleases/wishful-thinking-debunking-the-myths-of-the-shale-gas-boom/
David Hughes, “With Gas so Cheap and Well Drilling Down, Why is Gas Production so High?”, post carbon institute www.postcarbon.org/article/675898-with-gas-so-cheap-and-well
“12 Reasons The American Energy Boom Is Totally Overrated,” Business Insider www.businessinsider.com/the-shale-boom-economy-is-overrated-2013-5
DIRECTORATE GENERAL FOR INTERNAL POLICIES POLICY DEPARTMENT A: ECONOMIC AND SCIENTIFIC POLICY, Impacts of shale gas and shale oil extraction on the environment and on human health (June 2011). www.europarl.europa.eu/document/activities/cont/201107/20110715ATT24183/20110715ATT24183EN.pdf
ieBLOG posting by Shale Gas Bulletin Ireland (15 May 2013). sites.google.com/site/shalegasbulletinireland/all-previous-issues/issue-no-8—may-15-2013
Fracking is no game changer
As Shale Gas Bulletin Ireland points out, Minister Rabbitte argues fracking has been a ‘game changer’ in the US with the clear implication that fracking will do the same for the island of Ireland.
The Minister is wrong for several reasons. First, while fracking is touted as a game changer in the United States, it may be too early in the game to declare victory. Fossil fuel companies are notorious for overstating their reserves as it boosts their stock value. So there likely is not as much shale gas in the US as the companies would have us believe, and the same can be said about European resources. For example, the natural gas reserves in Poland were initially projected to meet Poland’s energy needs for 300 years. Now the estimate has been slashed by 80%.
Moreover, each shale gas well runs dry quickly so more and more wells are needed to produce a profit, and more of the land is saturated with shale gas wells, more roads are destroyed by trucks, more water is polluted, and more methane is emitted into the atmosphere.
Recent reports also indicate that shale gas is expected to meet only 5% of demand in Europe by 2030, that UK shale gas cannot compete with imported natural gas from the US, and it costs twice as much to extract shale gas in Europe than in the US, in part because shale gas is found in more densely populated regions in Europe.
Shale gas investments ‘could be worth £4bn a year to UK economy’
Europe Struggles in Shale Gas Race