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UK energy firm IGas has said it believes there is up to 170 trillion cubic feet of shale gas in its northern England exploration areas.

It has not yet made plans to go ahead with fracking, where water is pumped underground at high pressure to extract shale gas from rock.


Hydraulic Fracturing and how it works

IGas previously thought there was around 9 trillion cubic feet of gas available for extraction; it is now believed there is anything from 15.1, to 172.3 trillion.

Every year, the UK consumes around 3tn cubic feet of gas. Andrew Austin, IGas chief executive thinks the amount of shale gas in their licenced area alone means the country “would not have to import gas for a period of 10 to 15 years.”

He believes fracking in the north of England could create 25,000 to 40,000 direct jobs in the shale gas industry over the next 20 years. He added there was “the potential to transform the company and materially benefit the communities in which we operate”.

The news will be pleasing for the government. It hopes investments in shale gas will help the UK mirror the success in the US, which saw a huge drop in gas prices on the back of fracking.

The Energy and Climate Change Committee have argued that fracking won’t reduce gas prices in the UK but it would make the country less susceptible to international price fluctuations, so consumers wouldn’t be hit with as many nasty price hikes.

More readily available gas would also ease consumers if the UK sees prolonged cold weather periods like it has this year.

Extraction of shale gas is a hot issue for environmental campaigners such as Friends of the Earth who oppose it as “dirty and unnecessary”, instead favouring investment in renewable sources of energy such as wind, hydro and solar.

There is some evidence to suggest fracking may cause earth tremors, though it is currently disputed how much of an issue this may become as so far they have been very small and their causality was not confirmed to be from drilling operations.

IGas currently does not intend to use fracking this year, exploratory drilling for shale gas will begin in Cheshire at the end of the year.