By CASSIE WERBER
LONDON -- Producers of shale gas in the UK will be offered
tax breaks that more than halve the amount they pay on profits,
the government said Friday, in a move designed to kick-start
the embryonic industry.
No shale gas has yet flowed commercially in the UK so any
profits from the sector are some way off, but the government
said Friday that producers will have to pay just 30% tax,
compared with the current 62%, in a move it hopes will
encourage exploration to begin.
George Osborne, the UK chancellor of the exchequer, said in
a statement: "We want to create the right conditions for
industry to explore and unlock [shale's] potential...this new
tax regime, which I want to make the most generous for shale in
the world, will contribute to that."
The coalition government has been vocally enthusiastic about
shale-gas prospects, noting that commercial quantities have
transformed the energy outlook in the US, where natural-gas
production increased five-fold between 2007 and 2012.
The British Geological Survey last month said that around
1.3 quadrillion cubic feet of gas was contained within shale
formations under the Bowland area in northern England, twice
the amount previously thought to be present in the whole
country. The US Energy Information Administration, which made
the previous estimate, said that the two studies were based on
The BGS made no estimate as to how much gas could ever be
recovered. In the US, around 10% of shale gas resources have
proved to be recoverable, according to the UK Department of
Energy and Climate Change in a report last year. Experts point
out that Britain's geology is very different to North
America's, so it isn't possible to make a comparison about how
much might be extracted in the UK.
Mr. Osborne said that shale gas could create jobs and help
keep down energy costs. The UK has some of the highest domestic
energy costs in Europe: household gas bills rose 55% between
2007 and 2012, according to the Department for Energy and
Last month, UK energy giant Centrica became the first major
utility to enter the fray, buying a 25% interest in exploration licenses on the Bowland
shale for 40 million pounds ($61.3 million) from Cuadrilla
But opposition to shale gas
exploration has come from environmental groups, which say
the process known as fracking--the injection of water and
chemicals into rock -- could damage the countryside and pollute
Even if fracking is safe, say others, shale gas is still a
polluting fossil fuel and doesn't provide a long-term solution
to the UK's energy problems. The country's fleet of aging coal
and gas power stations needs replacing, but there is a lack of
consensus on what should take their place.
"Fracking, even by what its proponents think, is ultimately
a stop gap...[and] we're seeing with the fracking wells in the
US today the yields are starting to decline," said Tobi
Kellner, energy modeller at the Centre for Alternative
Technologies, during a briefing this week.
Advocating the building of a greener infrastructure, he
said: "It's a little bit like, as a kid, are you just going to
shove another thing under your bed... or are you actually going
to stop and tidy your room?"
Dow Jones Newswires