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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Making the most of our geological resources: A Northern Energy Taskforce working paper on Carbon Capture and Storage and Shale Gas

The UK has long seen efforts to take advantage of the geological assets that these islands possess. This dates from lead and gold mining in Roman times, to the mechanisation of deep mining for coal that helped fuel the Industrial Revolution and, more recently, the opportunities for oil and gas extraction from the North Sea. It is only right that any nation, or region, should seek to assess the best use of its natural resources for the current and future wellbeing of its people.

Today, what we now consider ‘best use’ is changing from an approach that sought to maximise extraction (or use) for economic gain to one that recognises extraction has impacts on the locality and on the wider environment. This short paper, prepared on behalf of the Northern Energy Taskforce, considers what might be described as the next generation of geological resource technologies, i.e. Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS), and Shale Gas recovery through fracking.

CCS and shale gas fracking both have the potential to offer some economic benefits, and benefits that could be realised in and for the North. But each runs the risk of being presented as a panacea and needs to be considered in a wider context. If the government is to retain its manifesto commitment to pursue onshore shale gas extraction, then the Northern Energy Taskforce calls on the relevant secretaries of state to do four things:

  1. Re-instate or update support for CCS technology, to include consideration of a CATAPULT Centre for CCS in the North.
  2. Lay out a clear, consistent and universally applied regulatory framework for shale gas extraction, under the auspices of the Environment Agency.
  3. Ensure that shale gas use displaces, rather than adds to imported gas consumption, as argued by the Committee on Climate Change (2016).
  4. Establish a Sovereign Wealth Fund to ‘bank’ the benefits of government revenues on shale gas and use them to forward fund the continued development of the energy system of the North, as well as offering individual and community benefits.