Shale Gas: A Provisional Assessment of Climate Change and Environmental Impacts
The analysis within the report addresses two specific issues associated with the extraction and combustion of shale gas. Firstly, it outlines potential UK and global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions arising from the exploitation of shale gas on a scale similar to that projected for the US. Secondly, it explores the health and environmental risks associated with shale gas extraction. It should be stressed that a key issue in assessing these issues has been a paucity of reliable data. To date shale gas has only been exploited in the US and it is difficult to quantify the possible resources in other parts of the globe, including the UK. Equally, information on health and environmental aspects is of variable quality and only now is there any systematic effort being undertaken to better understand these issues. Therefore, while every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in the report, it can only be as accurate as the information on which it draws. It is clear however, that while shale gas extraction, at a global level, does not involve the high energy and water inputs at the scale of other unconventional fuels, such as oil derived from tar sands, it does pose significant potential risks to human health and the environment. Principally, the potential for hazardous chemicals to enter groundwater via the extraction process must be subject to more thorough research prior to any expansion of the industry being considered. Additionally, while being promoted as a transition route to a low carbon future, none of the available evidence indicates that this is likely to be the case. Rather, shale gas exploitation will probably lead to an increase in absolute global carbon emissions and may even delay the necessary investment in zero and very low carbon technologies.