Sustainable Change Cooperative assisted the Tyndall Centre in delivering an important report for the Cooperative examining issues associated with the possible exploitation of shale gas in the UK. This is as an unconventional way of obtaining natural gas that has expanded rapidly in the United States, and is now being explored in the UK. The study identified potential environmental risks with the process of extracting the gas from shale, risks that have not been fully investigated to date. It also highlighted how carbon emissions may increase around the world as a result of developing this new source of fossil fuels. All this led to the conclusion that a more precautionary approach should be adopted.
Our involvement in the project focused on analysing the potential impact that shale gas extraction could have on carbon emissions, both for the UK and at a Global level. Drawing on limited knowledge about potential UK and global resources of shale gas, and making assumptions about both the rate of exploitation and overall proportions extracted, we developed a total of six scenarios.
For the UK, the existence of a carbon budget means that any additional emissions from shale gas would need to be offset by emission reductions elsewhere, or by the substitution of shale gas (e.g. for imported gas) with no change in emissions. However, in an energy hungry world with no effective constraint on carbon emissions, these changes could lead to an increase in Global emissions. If shale gas is exploited around the world, emissions could rise by significant amounts.
The report has attracted significant media attention with interest in the issue continuing to gain momentum. The work has also fed into a House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Select Committee review of shale gas in the UK.
Images: Tyndall Report