Will Shale Gas Power the World?

UK firm “IGas” has reported that there is likely to be up to 170 trillion cubic feet of gas in the areas it is licensed to frack in northern England. Shale gas is extracted by fracking – which involves pumping highly pressured water, chemicals and sand at rock to release gas for extraction.

_65309507_shale_gas_extraction464Source: BBC News

It had previously said it had about nine trillion cubic feet of shale gas. It now estimates that the volume of “gas initially in place” could range up to 172.3 trillion cubic feet, the higher figure being nearly 20 times higher than the earlier estimate.

The UK’s annual gas consumption is currently about 3 trillion cubic feet.

“The licences have a very significant shale gas resource with the potential to transform the company and materially benefit the communities in which we operate,” said IGas chief executive Andrew Austin.”Our estimates for our area alone could mean that the UK would not have to import gas for a period of 10 to 15 years.”

Additionally, energy firm Cuadrilla, which has drilled wells near Blackpool in Lancashire, says it has 200 trillion cubic feet of gas in its license area of the Bowland Shale. That suggests that the overall number for the region could be in excess of 400-500 trillion cubic feet in total.

Shale gas has revolutionised the U.S. energy market and has also led to a significant decrease in gas prices worldwide.

Since 2006, U.S. production of shale gas — so named because it originates in shale rock formations — has risen from 28.3 billion cubic meters to 220.8 billion cubic meters in 2011. That number is forecast to continue climbing to 472.9 billion cubic meters, a 114 percent increase, by 2040. By then, shale gas will account for more than 50 percent of all U.S. natural gas production. New supplies of this volume will have a huge impact on global energy supplies.

Japanese trading firms are expected to start importing shale gas from the U.S. as early as 2017 if Washington approves exports to Japan in the first half of the year. Japan has made progress in its attempts to curtail soaring fuel costs since the 2011 Fukushima disaster and Washington on Friday gave it the green light to import cheap liquefied natural gas.

Since Japan is relatively poor in natural resources, it has long wished to import U.S.-produced LNG emerging from the shale gas boom. This is not only because the price of U.S. natural gas is around a quarter of what it is now paying for LNG imports, but also because it increases the nation’s bargaining power against other energy suppliers.

Yet the good news is not limited to America, Europe and Asia.

America’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that South Africa might have shale-gas reserves of around 485 trillion cubic feet. If this is correct, this would mean that South Africa has the third highest shale gas reserves in the world. Indeed, a report published earlier this year by Econometrix showed that if only a tenth of the estimated gas can be extracted, thousands of jobs could be created. The gas extracted could provide South Africa with 400 years’ worth of energy. For a country that regularly endures hardship this could provide South Africa with what it so urgently needs: jobs and development.

Sources include: Japan Times, BBC News, The Guardian, Shale Gas Europe and Gov.uk

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