Shale gas "no silver bullet" for UK energy - engineers group
LONDON (Reuters) - Exploiting the UK's shale gas reserves will not provide a panacea to weaning the country off costly and unpredictable gas imports, the country's top engineers said on Tuesday.
In a policy statement circulated to MPs, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers said shale gas "is not the silver bullet many claim it is."
"It is unlikely to have a major impact on energy prices and the possibility that the UK might ever achieve self-sufficiency in gas is remote."
Developers of the unconventional gas believe that trillions of cubic feet of reserves could be lying under British soil, and it was hoped that successful extraction of the gas could help to boost the country's energy security by cutting its reliance on imports.
Due to the UK's dwindling gas supplies, the country has already become a net importer of the fuel, leaving it dependent on supplies from sometimes remote and politically unstable regions.
In the United States, a boom in production of cheap shale gas in recent years has pushed down energy prices and cut greenhouse gas emissions, prompting calls from industry for the UK and other European countries to follow suit.
But development of shale gas reserves in Britain are likely to be fraught with more problems than in the United States.
Across the Atlantic landowners own mineral exploration rights, but UK exploration rights are with the state. High population density in the UK also makes shale gas exploration more difficult than in North America.
Britain currently has a moratorium on shale gas fracking, a technique in which water is pumped at high pressure into rock to create narrow fractures to allow gas to flow into the well bore to be captured.
Resumption of the practice may have moved a step closer after Prime Minister David Cameron reshuffled his cabinet earlier in September and picked Owen Paterson, a supporter of the technology, as Environment Secretary. Paterson has previously hailed the potential economic benefits of shale gas.
While the final decision will be made by the country's energy ministry, support from the Department of Environment could help to speed a decision in favour of resuming exploration.
(Reporting By Susanna Twidale; Editing by Hugh Lawson)
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