Shale gas 'could create many jobs but is not a silver bullet'
Shale gas could create thousands of UK engineering jobs but is not a ‘silver bullet’ for the economy, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) said today.
In a policy statement circulated to MPs, the engineering body said operations to drill for shale gas using the controversial hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ method would create 4,200 jobs per year over a 10-year programme.
However, it added that an over-reliance on gas would leave the UK vulnerable to changing global energy prices, even with shale gas, and that any developments must be coupled with investment in carbon capture and storage technology.
The IMechE said that as many as 1,300 jobs could be created annually in Lancashire, the site of 200 trillion cubic feet of underground gas, according to Cuadrilla Resources, which conducted a test drilling operation near Blackpool in 2011.
The IMechE also pointed out that the UK economy could benefit from selling shale gas expertise abroad, as had happened with the North Sea oil industry.
However, its job estimates were lower than those of Cuadrilla, which last year said a UK shale industry could create 5,600 jobs with 1,700 in Lancashire.
‘Shale gas has the potential to give some of the regions hit hardest by the economic downturn a much-needed economic boost,’ Dr Tim Fox, IMechE head of energy and environment and lead author of a shale gas policy statement, said in a statement.
‘The engineering jobs created will also help the government’s efforts to rebalance the UK’s skewed economy.
‘UK shale gas could make a helpful contribution to the UK’s energy security for the next two centuries, but it is not the silver bullet many claim it is. It is unlikely to have a major impact on energy prices and the possibility that the UK might ever achieve self-sufficiency in gas is remote.
‘A general over-reliance on gas will render the UK a hostage to volatile global energy markets, with or without UK shale gas. It is vital that the government continues to develop a balanced energy policy, incorporating renewables, nuclear and fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage.’