The continuing increasing supply of natural gas and the threat from ‘fracking’

According to Carbon Brief fossil fuel’s share of energy supplies in the UK in 2015 hit a record low, largely due to reducing coal consumption and an increasing share of renewable energy in the electricity generation sector. But this disguises the fact that both supply and demand of oil and gas increased. 

“The latest Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES) from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) it reveals a nation in the midst of a low-carbon transition. However, it also shows that fossil fuel extraction increased for the first time in 15 years.” – Carbon Brief

The link between supply and demand

If we look at the latest Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES) from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), it shows that:

“Total gas demand (natural gas plus colliery methane) increased by 2.2 per cent in 2015 to 793 TWh. This is mainly due to the slight rise in domestic consumption, up 5.1 per cent”

Clearly, if we want to reduce how much gas we consume, primarily we need to focus on demand-side measures. However, I would argue that we would undermine any such efforts if we either: (1) increase the production of gas here at home; or (2) introduce new supply channels here at home, as this will reduce the wholesale price of gas and impact the demand side.

(1) Maximising recovery

As Carbon Brief highlight:

“While the UK is in the midst of a low-carbon transition, that doesn’t mean it has stopped the extraction of fossil fuels. In fact, combined coal, oil and gas production rose in 2015, the first annual increase since 1999. Within this increase, coal extraction fell by 26% year-on-year.”

The issue here is the government’s support for our oil and gas industries.

“The government has made it a legal obligation to draw up strategies to “maximise economic recovery” of UK fossil fuel resources. As chancellor, George Osborne introduced a series of tax breaks designed to meet this obligation. The exchequer is actually paying some oil majors, as they can reclaim tax paid in previous years to offset the costs of decommissioning North Sea assets.”

This could be down to conflicting priorities, ideology or perhaps even vested interests.

  • Whilst the government says it is committed to reducing GHG emissions, it aims to do so whilst targeting economic growth as a primary objective.
  • There’s long been a culture of favouring large industry when the UK considers energy – finding the next big gas field or building another big power station.
  • Finally, it’s no secret that the fossil fuel industry has a lot of money and it’s never been afraid to use – this opens up debates around corporate lobbying, political party funding, jobs for ex-ministers etc. Politicians are too often found to have very cosy relationships with those in the fossil fuel industry.

(2) New sources of gas (‘Fracking’)

I understand the argument that we consume more than we produce and much of this comes from Qatar in the form of LNG. As such we improve our energy security by fulfilling demand here at home. 

But…

The Government received a report from the Committee on Climate Change which found that Fracking is incompatible with the UK’s climate targets; they sat on the report for 100 days before choosing to ignore its findings. There are only 2 reasons for this; 1st profit for their chums in the City of London and 2nd fear that Putin will turn off the gas. They are simply corrupt numpties who fear change that will benefit the majority over the few.

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