Shale is not a miracle solution for Europe

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Shale is not the miracle solution for Europe that is being made out to be by especially the British government.

fracking2_smlShale oil and gas have had but limited benefits for the US economy and their advantages for Europe will be even slimmer, a French think tank said recently.

The shale boon in the US has mainly benefited local economies and the gas industry with only "minimal" impact on macro-economic growth, the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) said.

A sharp fall in gas prices that has benefited consumers is unlikely to be sustained, and for the foreseeable future, the United States will remain a big importer of crude oil, it said in an analysis.

The report cautioned that the advantages for Europe would be even narrower, given restrictions in geology, environmental considerations about exploration and a long and costly lead time to exploit finds.

"It is often overlooked, but the US shale revolution came after several decades of geological exploration which scaled up massively in the years preceding the boom," IDDRI said.

"Between 2000 and 2010, the US drilled a total of 17,268 exploratory natural gas wells, at an average of 130 per month. Exploration in the EU is in its infancy, with about 50 wells drilled" thus far.

A middle-of-the-road scenario suggests that by 2030-2035, the EU could meet between three to 10 percent of its projected energy demands from shale, IDDRI said.

"Shale gas should therefore not be seen as a solution to the EU's energy, climate and competitiveness challenge," said the forecast.

"The EU needs a holistic strategy combining energy efficiency, eco-innovation, low-carbon energy sources and a stronger, more integrated internal market."

It added: "Shale gas could be a complement to this, in so far as it could contribute to a more liquid, resilient internal gas market, particularly in those member states currently highly dependent on polluting coal or Russian gas."

The fact is that several shale gas and oil wells that have been drilled in the UK, for instance, have already been abandoned again with the comments by the company that no fracking be necessary as the gas and oil is unfracked in those rocks. Sources, however, have suggested that the real truth for the companies having abandoned the drilling is that the gas and oil is actually far too costly to extract. Still, however, the UK government is hellbent on getting almost half of the country, drilled and fracked, mostly in environmentally sensitive areas and in parks and open spaces, even within towns and cities.

The true forecasts that the UK government does not want to have the people know about as to prices is as suggested, namely that they will not be reduced at all to benefit the consumer.

It is therefore a completely fruitless exercise, except for the bent politicians, to continue with this dangerous practice and the it would be easily possible to cover the small amount of natural gas any shale exploitation would create by means, for instance, of methane digestion.

There are suggestions that if all sewage works and landfill sites would extract the methane produced there instead of flaring it off and is all farms would digest the slurry and such produced into methane that a very large amount of natural gas could be created almost for free.

We must remember that the Edison electricity generating plants of those early days were not designed to run on coal or oil but on sewage gas and the gas was extracted directly from the sewers. That, however, does not fit into the schemes of the powers that be and of industry.

Not far from where I live there is a small sewage works where five methane flares are burning day in day out and that is a serious waste of resources for which the natural environment would not need to be exploited were that gas to be used. In some instance, on some landfills, the methane gas is not even flared off but vented into the atmosphere and that is not just as waste but a crime as the gas, methane, is a much more dangerous greenhouse gas than even carbon dioxide (CO2) and thus should not be vented to the outside at all.

Not only must we develop energy efficiency, eco-innovation, low-carbon energy sources, we must get away from carbon energy sources in the first place to renewables and while methane from digesters may still be a carbon energy as it will release carbon during the burning process it is a gas where there drilling and fracking does not enter in.

Other sources must be developed, however, that are renewable and low to zero carbon such as solar (photo-voltaic), wind and hydro and the most important way forward is the micro-generation of electricity on every home and business property.

If every roof would become a power station and, in addition to that, our energy usage be reduced there would be no longer any need for oil and gas. And while some advocate nuclear energy as a low to zero carbon option and one, so they say, must be put into the equation, it must be a no on that one until such a day that fusion is totally feasible as the latter does not produce the radioactive waste. But until such a time nuclear is not an option.

The only options are solar, wind, water and methane using methane digesters and from paces such as landfills and sewage works. As far as wind and solar are concerned the proper answer also would be more or less small scale generation on ever roof available and the change of the current in use as regards to voltage and current and changing the power for most applications to 12V DC with inversion of current where required.

In addition to that, or, to be more precise, before all that we need to reduce our energy consumption and also our use of fossil fuels in transportation and that will require a change in the way we live and work.

© 2014