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Shale gas exploration – an industry and economic revolution.


Photo by KA from www.geograph.org.uk

As the UK gets ready to tap into a new source of energy, the future looks rosier than at first imagined. Shale gas has the potential to revolutionise the energy industry and put the UK at the forefront of the supply chain. Europe remains a significant, yet untapped shale market, and here is an opportunity to take the bull by its horns and lead the development of a somewhat nascent market and contribute specialised equipment and skills.

More ‘aye’s than ‘no’s.

Shale gas exploration had its fair share of controversy with naysayers putting forward environmental concerns. However, it has been shown that “pollution incidents are the result of bad practice, rather than an inherently risky technique”, as also reported by the BBC. A report by UKOOG proposes shared infrastructure with the government that can safely support UK shale development. These steps should smooth the worry lines that currently crisscross the features of environmental activists.

Overall, the odds are heavily stacked in favour of shale gas exploration. If safely and economically extracted, shale gas can develop a new onshore gas industry, and give local employment a much needed steroid shot.

Opportunities for people.

The report by UKOOG suggests that a staggering 64,500 jobs with above-UK average salaries will be generated from shale gas extraction. These jobs are direct, indirect and induced roles, covering activities ranging from exploration to production. They span a plethora of opportunities for petroleum engineers, engineering apprentices, specialists in geosciences (including environmental consultants), operations and maintenance technicians, security guards, drivers, trades service workers, construction labourers, health and safety professionals and PR, finance, administrative and marketing professionals.

Suddenly, there could be more opportunities than people. Flip that coin, and the future looks even brighter. Here is a platform to expand and grow the current skill set. New skills point to a strategic development opportunity for the UK, far beyond the economic one. There is potential to lead from the front with elite vocational courses that are industry specific.

Nor is all the development restricted to the top layer. The study has also identified skill shortages in the offshore oil, gas and chemicals industries. That could prevent a much needed crossover to shale gas exploration. So there’s every reason to step in with early action and training for blue collar workers, just so job opportunities for local people are maximized.

Tangible industry benefits.

Shale gas extraction comes with its own share of industry challenges, but if these are addressed, the UK could emerge as the thought leader in various other verticals. An example is the waste disposal industry, which will have an estimated £4.1bn requirement in waste management, storage and transportation.

And that’s not the only opportunity either. Specialised equipment and skills for hydraulic fracturing totalling £17bn will also be required. A £2.3bn requirement for the steel industry has been forecast, based on the 12,600km casing that will be needed. This can be a massive boost for UK-based steel, oil field service and manufacturing companies.

Shale gas exploration will also need up to 50 landward rigs at peak drilling activity. That will see a surge of as much as £1.65bn in the rig manufacturing industry. Add to that the opportunities for companies supplying other key components, and you have the potential for a complete shift in local and global economics for the UK.

The report speaks for itself. Shale gas exploration is a chance for the UK to lead an energy revolution. How and when we step up to the challenge remains to be seen.


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