Environmentally friendly shale gas development

05 Mar 2015

A briefing paper Dr Christophe McGlade and Professor Paul Ekins, UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources and UCL Energy Institute, University College London; Professor Michael Bradshaw, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick; and Professor Jim Watson, UK Energy Research Centre.

The research on which this brief paper draws was carried out by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC). The views expressed are those of the authors, rather than of any institution to which they may be affiliated.

Two recently published reports (McGlade & Ekins (2015), McGlade et al. (2014)) examine possible futures for fossil fuels, with a particular focus on the ‘bridging’ role that natural gas may be able to play during a transition to a global low-carbon energy system. A related report (Bradshaw et al. 2014) considers the UK’s global gas challenge and places the development of shale gas in the wider context of the UK’s energy security and climate change policies. These reports found that there is a good potential for gas to act as a transition fuel to a low-carbon future up to 2035 on a global level but with this potential varying significantly between different regions.

This is consistent with the views of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC), which indicates that in a global context ‘GHG emissions from energy supply can be reduced significantly by replacing current world average coal-fired power plants with modern, highly efficient natural gas combined-cycle power plants or combined heat and power plants’ (IPCC, 2014).

Drawing on the findings of these reports, we have commented that the UK may be able to develop some of its potential shale gas resources within the context of a global effort to keep average global warming below 2oC with a reasonable likelihood. This is again consistent with the views of the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC) who state that ‘UK shale gas production could be compatible with meeting [its] emissions targets’ (CCC, 2013).