Experts have argued that Prime Minister Liz Truss’ end to the fracking moratorium could unlock massive reserves of gas worth £4trillion under today’s prices. This comes as the Business Secretary yesterday lifted the moratorium on shale gas extraction- or fracking- in a bid to “strengthen our energy security” amid Vladimir Putin’s “weaponisation of energy”, despite critics saying it could trigger seismic activity, harm the environment and take too long to solve the energy crisis.
The controversial energy extraction practice was banned in 2019, but following Russia’s invasion fo Ukraine putting energy security at risk, the Government has decided to restart fracking and boost North Sea oil drilling.
Matt Ridley, a former Conservative peer hailed the move to lift the ban, adding that it would boost the economy massively while providing jobs and infuriating Vladimir Putin by unlocking secure energy supplies.
He noted that in the Carboniferous Bowland–Hodder area in north-west England, which is one of UK’s four regions that are rich in shale gas reserves, there are a thousand trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
In the Daily Mail, he estimated that: “Realistically, with today’s technology of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, we could extract about 10 percent of that if we wanted. It would fetch a gob-smacking £4trillion at today’s prices.”
Following yesterday’s announcement, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “In light of Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and weaponisation of energy, strengthening our energy security is an absolute priority, and – as the prime minister said – we are going to ensure the UK is a net energy exporter by 2040.
“To get there, we will need to explore all avenues available to us through solar, wind, oil and gas production – so it’s right that we’ve lifted the pause to realise any potential sources of domestic gas.”
Mr Ridley noted that through fracking, Ms Truss’ plans to make UK a net energy exporter is within reach, adding that “not only is this ambition entirely achievable, it’s also a green fantasy that we could soon do without gas, which supplies half our electricity, most of our heating and a lot of our industrial needs — and will do for several decades.
“We have gone from exporting to importing gas, while America went in the other direction — thanks to shale. In terms of emissions, this makes no sense.
“We treat imported gas as having a ‘zero-carbon’ footprint till it’s burned, which is a lie: transporting it in tankers generates lots of emissions.”
He also added that domestic gas is far more lucrative than extracting oil, as oil prices are set by the global market, while gas, which is expensive to liquify and ship across oceans, have different prices in different countries.
The former member of the House of Lords slammed “green zealots” for pressuring the Government into introducing extremely restrictions on fracking, over concerns of seismic activity.
Since Ms Truss announced her intention to end the ban on fracking, industry officials have urged the Prime Minsiter to go further by scrapping key restrictions that they claim hold the industry back.
The firms have urged the Government to relax laws surrounding earthquakes, allowing for tremors above 0.5 on the Richter scale, and for companies to be able to bypass local objections.
However, Fracking has faced many critics, with even the current Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng previously opposing a return to the practice.
When Russia first invaded Ukraine, Mr Kwarteng, the Business and Energy Secretary tweeted: “Additional North Sea production won’t materially affect the wholesale price (certainly not anytime soon).
“The wholesale price of gas has quadrupled in UK and Europe. Additional UK production won’t materially affect the wholesale market price. This includes fracking – UK producers won’t sell shale gas to UK consumers below the market price. They’re not charities.”
While fracking could boost energy security through increased domestic gas, a study in the US published last month found that young children living near fracking wells at birth are up to three times more likely to later develop leukaemia.