British government has announced that it is going to open the first of many ‘shale gas colleges’ to prepare Britain for future shale gas exploration. The news about the creation of The National College for Onshore Oil and Gas, headquartered in Blackpool and linked to colleges in Chester, Redcar and Cleveland, Glasgow and Portsmouth, came amid claims that the government has “oversold” the potential of fracking, with shale gas unlikely to make Britain self-sufficient in gas.
British Energy Minister Matthew Hancock said that the new colleges will prepare the workforce to meet the expected demand when British shale industry takes off the ground. In the long term, the government expects British investments in shale to reach $5.8 billion per year and support 74,000 jobs.
“Shale gas is an enormous opportunity for the UK and one that we simply can’t afford to miss out on,” he said in a statement, adding: “Imagine if we had passed up a similar opportunity to go into the North Sea some 50 years ago. What if we’d let that oil and gas stay in the ground? What if we’d said it was too difficult or too controversial?
“The whole country would be poorer, finance would account for an even greater share of our economy; Aberdeen would be a seaside resort rather than a regional powerhouse. I am not prepared to pass up a once-in-a-generation economic opportunity, with the potential for industry to invest up to GBP 33 billion [$52.5 billion] in the next 15 years or so.”
Meanwhile, Ken Cronin, the CEO of the UK Onshore Operators Group, added: “We are excited by the prospect of a National College and that it will be headquartered in Blackpool. Onshore oil and gas could provide major economic and energy security benefits to the UK, but it will only do so if there are skilled employees trained for the key roles in all parts of the industry. The National College will be crucial to developing those skills, and we look forward to working with industry on the next phase of its development.”
So far, the government has offered $3.3 million to finance innovation in the shale gas sector, including new methods in environmental management and reservoir monitoring. Apart from that, the government has offered $1.1 million in development funds, which will be matched by the industry itself, to establish research and development programs for the emerging shale sector.
However, the government’s announcement came at a time when even a government-funded body, the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC), put a damper on UK shale energy forecasts.
In the report called “The UK’s Global Gas Challenge” the UKERC’s researchers stated: “A proper assessment of UK shale gas production potential requires further research, but at present we would caution against assuming that domestic shale gas can make a contribution to UK gas security until well into the 2020s. The bottom line is that the industry in the UK is still in its infancy and a two-to-three year exploration program is required before we can even begin to answer key questions about flow rates and prospects for commercial development at scale.”
Meanwhile, Cuadrilla, one of the exploration companies searching for shale in the UK, has moved closer to pressing ahead with a four-well exploration programme at Preston New Road in Lancashire after Britain’s Environment Agency said on Monday it would likely approve environmental permits for the site.
“The Environment Agency is minded to grant Cuadrilla the environmental permits needed to carry out their operations,” the body said in a statement.
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