Aberdeen’s wealth of oil and gas experience could play a pivotal role in the shale gas fracking industry, it was claimed this week.
Oil and gas expert Bob Ruddiman also believes that, while larger-than-expected shale gas reserves are being forecast, the potential of this new energy source should be kept in context.
Just last week, the British Geological Survey said there may be 1,300trillion cubic feet of shale gas in the north of England – double the previous estimate.
Shale gas, which is natural gas trapped in rock, has become a key resource in the US, but the fracking extraction technique is controversial.
Mr Ruddiman, head of energy and natural resources at legal firm Pinsent Masons, said: “The government is expected to make a number of announcements in the coming days that will have a profound impact on the development of shale gas in the UK, but they must avoid the temptation for unnecessary legislation.
“While the forecast output of the British Geological Survey is significant, it needs to be seen in context. It will not fundamentally change the UK’s need to diversify its energy mix and invest in a range of energy sources.
“One thing that is for sure is that the UK is a market-leader in developing technology to extract reserves in technically-challenging environments.
“This is where Aberdeen and its wealth of oil and gas experience could play a pivotal role in the new fracking industry.” Forty-plus years of developing clever technologies to maximise output from the North Sea means that shale-gas developers will be knocking on the door of north-east companies to tap in to that rich seam of knowledge.”
Announcements are expected on streamlined planning rules, tax changes and community incentives for the shale-gas industry.
While the UK Government has indicated its willingness to support shale-gas operations, pressure is mounting for incentives for communities near fracking sites – with some reports already suggesting local communities could receive around 1% of profits derived from shale projects.
Mr Ruddiman said: “Local residents are likely to be given a powerful voice in whether projects are allowed to proceed in future.
“The question is whether developers will be required by law to partake in community schemes, and if so what will be the nature of the statutory requirements. Schemes to date have been entirely voluntary and agreed by the specific host community and developer.
“There is a danger that legislation will mean a ‘one size fits all’ approach implementing requirements that aren’t appropriate for every project and community.”