The total number of wells and jobs linked to fracking could be a lot smaller than initial claims, a report says.
Anti-fracking group Greepeace said it had got hold of figures from a leaked 2016 Cabinet Office report into shale gas which it says shows the government does not expect a fracking boom on the scale predicted by the shale gas industry.
Instead of the 4,000 wells predicted by the industry just a few years ago, the government’s Implementation Unit Report on Shale Gas foresees only 155 wells by 2025.
Greenpeace UK’s head of energy Hannah Martin said: “These estimates from the heart of government are a far cry from the US-style fracking boom forecast.
"Yet instead of publishing the figures, ministers decided to bury them in a Cabinet Office drawer. This is despite the fact this analysis seriously undermines the promises of fracking jobs and investment repeated by government and industry for years. Before the government gives fracking the go-ahead, it’s time for a reality check.”
Shale gas industry reports had suggested that the UK fracking sector could see 4,000 horizontal wells drilled by 2032, with 400 per year delivered at its peak.
An EY report predicting fracking could create over 64,000 jobs and attract £33bn of investment - figures quoted by ministers during parliamentary debates - was based on the 4,000 well scenario.
But Greenpeace said If the government’s fracking forecast proves accurate, the shale gas industry would have to deploy 550 wells a year in order to reach its 2032 target — a figure far higher than even the industry’s ‘high activity scenarios’ suggest is possible.
But pro-fracking group Lancashire for Shale said: "As Cuadrilla has already pumped £7m into the Lancashire economy and created over 50 jobs from its work on just the first two wells, we are well-placed to benefit from the investment in jobs and people this industry will deliver, however many wells are eventually drilled.”
Ken Cronin, Chief Executive of UK Onshore Oil & Gas, said: "UKOOG’s publicly available analysis shows that 400 sites built in the next 20 years would reduce our gas import dependency by half. Each site, based on a typical US model, would have 10 wells.
"This is consistent with the recent EY report, which was carried out on behalf of the industry and investigated scenarios where imports would be halved by shale gas, in order that the industry could start to forecast what supply chain and skills would be required to ensure maximum value was created in the UK.
"We have now started the exploration phase which has included significant 3D seismic surveying across Lancashire, the East Midlands, Yorkshire and the North West and 5 wells across 4 sites have been drilled or are under construction. There are a further 2 wells with planning permission and planning applications are in for a further 10 wells across 6 sites. This exploration and appraisal phase will determine where the gas is, the qualities of the shale, and what a production pad scenario will look like."