Is Shale Gas Greener?


The chief scientific adviser at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, David Mackay, published a report in September looking intricately at the impact of shale gas on our emissions of greenhouse gasses. The report concluded that shale gas, acquired by fracking (which involves blasting shale rock with high pressure water and chemicals in order to fracture the rock and released trapped gas) could have less damaging carbon levels than liquefied natural gas and other gas imports.

The emissions of shale gas were compared to those of LNG (liquefied natural gas) that is currently imported from Qatar. The results showed the two were very similar. Mackay’s report concluded, “The principal effect of UK shale gas production and use will be that it displaces imported LNG, or possibly piped gas from outside Europe. The net effect on total UK [greenhouse gas] emissions rates is likely to be small.”

The report also stated, “The production of shale gas could increase global cumulative [greehouse gas] emissions if the fossil fuels displaced by shale gas are used elsewhere” This means overall extracting shale gas through fracking in the UK is likely to produce CO2.

BP published its research on the matter last week. They predict a rise in greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 29% over the next twenty years, in spite of the rise in popularity of shale gas. If these projections become reality, the world would be dangerously exceeding the limit of CO2 in the atmosphere. This would lead to climate change at a dangerous level.

The US had a huge effect on the global emissions over the last few years. The use of shale gas there has brought emissions down but as they were no longer using coal to fuel power plants, it was exported to Europe. This flooded the fuel market with cheap coal, which encouraged more companies to use coal power in their energy production. This means although shale gas might lead to slightly lower emission levels in the short term, the use of it in Europe will just push the problem elsewhere and cause a much larger long term issue.

The claim that the use of shale gas in the UK will bring down UK energy prices made by Cameron has even been denied by Cuadrilla, the the shale gas leader.