The updated Tyndall Centre report on the environmental and climate change impacts of shale gas extraction has recently been released, and makes for sobering reading (which is why we’ve added a picture of Prof. Tyndall’s whiskers to cheer you up). The key conclusions of the report are as follows:
1.There is little to suggest that shale gas will play a key role as a transition fuel in the move to a low carbon economy. … At the global level, against a backdrop of energy growth matching, if not outstripping, that of global GDP and where there is currently no carbon constraint, the exploitation of shale gas will most likely lead to increased energy use and increased emissions resulting in an even greater chance of dangerous climate change.
2. UK Government commitments on climate change require major investment in zero and very low carbon technologies; this is likely to be delayed significantly by the exploitation of shale gas.
3. Without a meaningful cap on global carbon emissions, the exploitation of shale gas is likely to increase total emissions. … (I)n this energy-hungry world, with GDP growth dominating political agendas and no effective and stringent constraint on total global carbon emissions, the exploitation of an additional fossil fuel resource will likely feed increased energy use and an associated rise in emissions.
4. Evidence from the US suggests shale gas extraction brings a significant risk of groundwater and surface water contamination and until the evidence base is developed a precautionary approach to development in the UK and EU is recommended… An analysis of substances that have been used in the US suggests a significant number with toxic, carcinogenic, radiological or other hazardous properties.
5. Requirements for water in commercial scale shale gas extraction could put pressure on water supplies at the local level in the UK. Shale gas extraction requires high volumes of water. Given that water resources in many parts of the UK are already under pressure, this water demand could bring significant and additional problems at the local level. Conversely volumes of contaminated wastewater returning from wells will require careful disposal.
6. Exploiting shale gas within the UK is likely to give rise to a range of additional challenges. The UK is densely populated and consequently wells associated with commercial scale shale gas extraction will be relatively close to population centres. The proximity of such extraction will give rise to a range of local concerns for instance, high levels of truck movements on already busy roads and the potential for seismic disturbances, that require meaningful engagement, assessment, regulation and enforcement.
The full report, together with the Tyndall Centre’s earlier report from January 2011, is available on our Documents page.