Prime Minister David Cameron today told world leaders gathered in Switzerland that development of shale oil and gas wells was vital to encouraging manufacturers to return to the UK and Europe.
The process of companies returning to domestic production facilities, known as reshoring, has gathered pace over the past year, with the Manufacturing Advisory Service reporting in November that 15% of the firms it spoke to were returning capacity to the UK from overseas.
Cameron told delegates at the World Economic Forum in Davos that the US was experiencing a huge surge in reshoring thanks to low energy prices driven by its shale oil and gas boom, and that the UK and Europe should follow this example.
I think there is a chance for Britain to become the “Re-Shore Nation”
Prime Minister David Cameron
“There is no doubt that when it comes to re-shoring in the US, one of the most important factors has been the development of shale gas, which is flooring US energy prices, with billions of dollars of energy cost savings predicted over the next decade,” said Cameron.
“It has reduced industrial gas prices in America to about one quarter of those in Europe and it’s set to create a million more manufacturing jobs as firms build new factories. I want Britain to seize these opportunities. I think there is a chance for Britain to become the “Re-Shore Nation”.”
The Prime Minister went on to claim that with the right regulations “such as ensuring that well casings are set at the right depths with tight seals”, there was evidence that shale gas could have minimal environmental impact and “actually have lower emissions than imported gas”.
Anti-shale campaigners responded to the Prime Minister’s speech by accusing him of ignoring the environmental impacts of and weak business case for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the UK.
“Yet again the Prime Minister has turned a blind eye to expert advice on the impacts of UK shale gas,” said Friends of the Earth head of campaigns Andrew Pendleton.?
“Industry experts have warned that fracking won’t lead to cheaper fuel bills, and only last week BP said switching to shale gas will do little to cut emissions. The best way to create jobs, boost the economy and tackle rocketing fuel bills is to invest in energy efficiency and develop the UK’s world class renewable power potential.”
Cameron’s speech followed news from Cuadrilla yesterday that it will not need to carry out fracking operations at its controversial shale oil site in Balcombe, West Sussex.
The developer submitted a planning application earlier this week to extend the amount of time it could carry out flow testing at its exploratory well at Lower Stumble, Balcombe, a site which faced heavy protests by environmental activists last summer.
The firm did discover oil during the controversial summer period, but now needs to spend more time discovering the rate at which it could flow to the surface.
“Significantly, the analysis of the samples we obtained from the exploration well confirmed that the target rock underneath Lower Stumble is naturally fractured,” said a Cuadrilla spokesman yesterday.
“The presence of these natural fractures and the nature of the rock means that we do not intend to hydraulically fracture the exploration well at Lower Stumble now or in the future.”
If Cuadrilla’s application for flow testing at the site is approved, the firm will have a three year period in which to complete the works, which are expected to take between three and five weeks.
Cuadrilla said yesterday that “the timing of any activity on site is unlikely to be imminent”.