The government should not pursue domestic shale gas production unless it is willing reinstate support for carbon capture and storage (CCS), a new report has argued.
Ministers must not allow the decarbonisation of the British economy to be “halted or slowed” by the availability of onshore gas, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) North.
“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,” the document states. “But each runs the risk of being presented as a panacea and needs to be considered in a wider context”.
It continued: “If we are to meet our climate change ambitions and commitments as a nation, we cannot depend upon shale gas in the ways some suggest.”
The report draws attention to the potential to deploy CCS to produce low-carbon hydrogen from shale gas, which could then be used to decarbonise heat and transport. It says the deployment of CCS would also allow shale gas to be utilised for power generation and industrial processes whilst keeping a lid on CO2 emissions.
“These two technologies might best be considered as mutually beneficial and self-reinforcing, with CCS the higher priority in the longer term,” it adds.
The report produced by IPPR North’s Northern Energy Taskforce said, if the government continues to back the extraction of shale gas, then it must also reinstate or update support for CCS. This could include the creation of a “Catapult Centre for CCS” in the North of England.
Support should be funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and delivered by local actors in the region. It should be established over the next parliament to enable Britain to become a world-leader in CCS technology.
The report additionally urges the government to put in place “a clear, consistent and universally applied regulatory framework” for hydraulic fracturing and ensure that shale gas use “displaces, rather than adds to imported gas consumption”.
Lastly, it backs the creation of sovereign wealth fund to “bank” the tax revenues from shale gas extraction. As well as offering individual and community benefits to residents living nearby to shale gas wells – as per the government’s current proposals – the fund should also provide support for low-carbon technologies and, in particular, CCS projects.
“It is not possible to wait until receipts are collected and banked before building this vital infrastructure,” it adds. “For this reason, this investment should be made up front with the expectation it will later be offset by shale gas revenues.”
The development of CCS in the UK suffered a major setback in late 2015 due the last-minute cancellation of a government competition to fund a trial project.
Nevertheless, the Teesside Collective is continuing to develop plans for an industrial CCS project in the Teesside area. Northern Gas Networks’ proposals to install a hydrogen gas network in Leeds rely upon the use of CCS to produce low-carbon hydrogen from methane.