The government announced a £5m fund in yesterday’s autumn statement to provide public information on shale gas regulation.
The announcement was not in the Chancellor’s speech but included in the Treasury Full Autumn Statement – the so called “Green Book”. It was welcomed by oil and gas operators but criticised by the TUC.
The Treasury said the money would be used to provide what it described as “independent evidence directly to the public about the robustness of the existing regulatory regime”.
This would, it said, “ensure the public is better engaged in the regulatory process.”
Ken Cronin, chief executive of the onshore operator’s group, UKOOG, said: “The UK public is exposed to many claims about the potential environmental impact of exploring for, and developing, the UK’s shale resource. This programme offers the opportunity to provide independently verified evidence on the issues that matter most to communities.”
Emma Wild, Head of Upstream Advisory at accountants KPMG, said the money would be a “much-needed step to alleviate public concerns around shale gas”.
But the TUC criticised the funding, which it said, would “help the shale gas industry sell itself to the public”.
The “green book” also gave details of a £31m fund that would be used to create, what the Treasury described as, “world class sub-surface research test centres”.
“This will establish world leading knowledge which will be applicable to a wide range of energy technologies including shale gas and carbon capture and storage”, the Treasury said.
Place North West said one of two new sub-surface test centres would be based at Thornton Science Park at the former Shell research centre near Ellesmere Port. They will measure the results from hundreds of boreholes drilled across the country which will be used to test for water pollution.
Sovereign wealth fund
As expected, the government announced plans to invest shale tax revenues.
In his speech, the Chancellor said: “We’re announcing a new Sovereign Wealth Fund for the North of England so that the shale gas resources of the North are used to invest in the future of the North”.
The Treasury’s full autumn statement clarified that the fund would benefit other areas hosting shale gas developments and would be used “to capture the economic benefits of shale gas for future generations”.