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Shale gas can be compatible with the UK’s carbon budget

By 7th July 2016 News No Comments

The Committee on Climate Change confirms that shale gas can be compatible with the UK’s climate change targets

Today, the Committee on Climate Change published its much-awaited advice to Government concerning the compatibility of UK onshore petroleum with meeting the UK’s carbon budgets.

In its report, a legal requirement under the Infrastructure Act 2015, it concludes that shale gas can be compatible with the UK’s climate change targets provided that three tests are met:

Test 1: Well development, production and decommissioning emissions must be strictly limited. Emissions must be tightly regulated and closely monitored in order to ensure rapid action to address leaks.

Test 2: Consumption – gas consumption must remain in line with carbon budgets requirements. UK unabated fossil energy consumption must be reduced over time within levels the Committee has previously advised to be consistent with the carbon budgets. This means that UK shale gas production must displace imported gas rather than increasing domestic consumption.

Test 3: Accommodating shale gas production emissions within carbon budgets. Additional production emissions from shale gas wells will need to be offset through reductions elsewhere in the UK economy, such that overall effort to reduce emissions is sufficient to meet carbon budgets.

Industry commentators will be quick to note that onshore oil and gas extraction is already subject to a raft of regulatory controls aimed at limiting fugitive emissions, including the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002.

There is also every reason to believe that UK shale gas production will be favoured over imports given that domestic supplies will raise significantly more tax revenue for the Treasury whilst also creating jobs.

And with the Government already committed to phasing-out unabated coal-fired power generation by 2025, whilst continuing to support renewables and new nuclear, it would seem that there is plenty of scope for reduced emissions elsewhere in the economy in order to accommodate any potential shale gas emissions.

Commenting on the report, Lee Petts, managing director at Remsol, said: “The release of this report had been delayed, leading many to suggest that it contained some sort of ‘smoking gun’ that would undermine efforts to establish a UK shale gas industry, but that doesn’t seem to be the case at all.

“Instead, the Committee on Climate Change appears to have given UK shale gas a conditional green light. I see no particular reason why its three tests cannot be met at this stage.”

The Government, in its response, welcomed the report and concluded “the Government believes that the three tests set by the CCC will be met for the production stage of shale development.

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