A good article in The Economist this week discusses the development of shale gas in Britain. There are a few points that are worth summarizing:
The Chancellor is looking at tax incentives to woo shale gas firms to Britain because of the lack of an established supply chain and infrastructure. NB seems to be far from any kind of ‘wooing’ these days. In fact, the idea of government offering tax breaks and aggressively promoting NB as a location for shale gas development is not even on anyone’s table.
Another interesting point is the article recommends the government agree to turn back a portion of royalties to local communities (like NB is proposing). This addresses the problem of the Crown owning the minerals and not the landowner in the US.
Probably the most interesting point in the article:
“Techniques that cut drilling times, boost the amount of gas that can be recovered and enable many wells to be sunk from one location all lessen the environmental impact. Once built, a well consists of a few pipes sticking out of the ground. So keeping operations out of sight of the NIMBYs is feasible.”
This is one of the great ironies in the shale gas debate in New Brunswick. It’s opponents have talked about the industry turning NB into an industrial wasteland and ruining other industries such as tourism, forestry and agriculture. They use terms like ‘burned out’ landscape and insinuate that the shale gas industry would turn pristine land into wasteland.
I realize this is hyperbole but I still find it interesting as the evidence is as indicates in The Economist article that shale gas is far less impacting on the physical landscape because you can bore 12-20 wells or more from one wellhead (unlike conventional gas and oil which requires one wellhead for each well).
If you search Youtube for shale gas videos you get a lot of these burned out wasteland scenes but it looks like they are mostly using pictures of the land while the well is being drilled. Of course, there will be piles of dirt and industrial equipment on site while the wells are being drilled but it sure looks like to me that from a visual pollution perspective shale gas is far less impacting than wind turbines as one example.
Anyway the debate on this isn’t going away soon. I continue to maintain that shale gas investment is likely going to steer towards jurisdictions that are supportive of development – within a rigorous environmental framework which protects both the public and the industry – rather than those jursidictions where 3 of the main four parties are calling for a moratorium and the main party is fragile on the issue. Would you invest your money?