Energy minister Michael Fallon is today set to urge the Fylde coast to get behind shale gas as latest estimates claim “fracking” could be worth £33bn to the UK economy, creating 64,500 jobs over 15 years.
Mr Fallon is due to speak in Blackpool at the North West Shale Gas Supply Chain conference at the Winter Gardens today.
The conference has been organised by the North West Energy Task Force – a group of businesses who say the value of shale gas extraction must be explored.
And keynote speaker Mr Fallon has written a forward to an Ernst and Young study into the benefits of shale gas, commissioned by the UK Onshore Operators Group.
In it, he says: “I want this report to be a call to action for the UK supply chain for small and large companies, whether in Lancashire or Lowestoft, whether in the steel industry, the chemical industry or in other manufacturing and services. The message is get ready for shale.”
The EY report supports a study by the Institute of Directors last year that says that between 2016 and 2032, around £33bn could be spent bringing 4,000 wells into production.
This would equate to 64,500 UK jobs created, of which 6,100 would be direct roles.
The EY report says the jobs created would be highly-skilled direct site development roles, with many others involved in the supply chain.
The report says the spend would include £17bn on specialised equipment; £4.1bn on water and fluid waste, storage and transportation; and a £1.6bn rig manufacturing industry.
Cuadrilla, which is hoping to drill for shale gas at Roseacre and Little Plumpton has pledged that, wherever possible, contracts and jobs would be created locally.
But opponents of fracking, the process of injecting liquid into the ground at higher pressure to release gas trapped in rocks, including Greenpeace, have recently slammed similar figures as “pie in the sky” estimates.
Fylde coast opponents of fracking are set to picket outside the Winter Gardens today and have reacted angrily to a suggestion the Government could introduce a bill in June’s Queen’s Speech to change the nation’s trespass laws to allow drilling under private property.
The proposed changes would allow fracking to take place in return for compensation to the landowner.
Tina Rothery, of Residents Action on Fylde Fracking (RAFF), said: “We understood this was going to happen.
“It is just another ugly aspect of fracking. It’s the assumption the rights of homeowners and British citizens no longer matter. This industry is so new – it is only 20 years old.
“How can they do this? We feel deeply disappointed and let down by the Government.”
Mr Fallon said the EY report “demonstrates the big prize that could be available to the UK.”
He added: “By comparison, the onshore shale industry is still in its infancy in the UK.
“As we press on with exploration there is an opportunity for the supply chain, so the benefits can be secured for the UK.”
The minister is today also expected to announce £2m funding for research into shale gas extraction safety and efficiency initiatives, and the introduction of environmental risk assessments for any proposed site.
Meanwhile, Cuadrilla insists it is trying to be a “good neighbour” to rural communities as it plans to drill for shale gas across Lancashire.
On the day public consultation closes for the Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road Little Plumpton, near Westby, the company has revealed it is now only a matter of weeks away from applying for planning permission to begin fracking at both locations.
As part of the consultation process Cuadrilla says it has written to more than 9,000 households and held a variety of public events.