David Cameron’s message “We going all out for shale” doesn’t appear to have support in all parts of his government.
The business secretary, Vince Cable, told today’s Guardian “Shale gas is a long-term possibility – no more than that.” He said the real future for oil and gas in the UK was the North Sea. “Shale is a possible long-term resource, but we do not yet know. I want to tell people to get realistic about it. I do not think people in industry expect it to make a great deal of difference within a decade. Beyond that, it depends on geology, communities willing to accommodate it, companies willing to invest.” He added: “I do realise there are some people who are a bit carried away with shale gas.”
Mr Cable said renewable energy offered more opportunities: “Big renewable energy commitments in offshore wind, and nuclear – these are things that are actually happening, are going ahead.”
Lord Browne, a government advisor on business (and chairman of Cuadrilla, the only company to have used high volume hydraulic fracturing) has also been cautious about the timescale for shale gas. He told the Guardian last week it would take five years and drilling 20-40 fracking wells to judge whether a shale gas industry could be viable in the UK.
He told the paper: “We have an idea of the UK’s potential for shale – what we now need to do is figure out how much we can produce economically and how fast, which means wells need to be drilled and need to be fracked – there is no other way to do it.”