Skip to main content

Shale Gas

Volume 555: debated on Thursday 13 December 2012

12. What recent advice he has received on the effects of shale gas exploitation on (a) water resources and (b) carbon budgets. (133330)

We liaise closely with the Environment Agency on this issue, and it confirms that volumes of water used in shale gas exploration are not exceptional compared with other industrial activities that routinely take place across the United Kingdom. Any operator who wishes to abstract water as an alternative to using public supplies will need a licence. Additional water abstraction will be authorised only where it is sustainable and no risks are posed to the rights of existing abstraction licence holders.

Shale gas exploration is at a very early stage in the UK, and its possible scale is as yet unknown. We have legally binding carbon budgets, and that should reassure the hon. Lady. In addition, I hope that she will be reassured to know that I have announced today that I am commissioning a study of the possible impacts of shale gas development on greenhouse gas emissions.

On the first part of my question, when one recognises the fact that 4 million gallons of water are needed for every single frack, the Minister’s answer about the water supply is very complacent. On the second part, on carbon emissions, why do the official scenarios published last week alongside his gas generation plan set out an option for carbon intensity that is four times higher than the maximum level compatible with meeting our carbon budgets?

We have legally binding commitments under the Climate Change Act 2008, and our carbon budgets have been set out for people to look at. When we announce strategies it is not unusual for there to be a whole set of analyses, including sensitivity analysis. Yes, one analysis showed higher carbon intensities, but there was also an analysis that showed lower carbon intensities, and I think that people have missed that.

Many of my constituents just to the west of the Singleton Well shale gas site draw their water from their own sink holes in the Bleasdale area and Bowland forest. Will the Minister’s Department monitor the exploration process throughout Lancashire, because if there is going to be a problem with the water supply, it will be in that part of my constituency?

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s question. The Environment Agency will carry out the monitoring, but because we have increased the co-ordination of regulatory bodies, my Department will be aware of it. I hope that I assured him in my answer to the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) that the terms of any additional licences would have to ensure that the abstraction was sustainable and would not put at risk the rights of existing licence holders.