Drilling 4,000 shale gas wells over 18 years would bring £33bn of investment and create 64,000 jobs, an industry report has claimed.
To fully harness the potential of shale gas exploration, enabled by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the UK has to start as early as possible to provide foundations for necessary infrastructure, supply chain standards and skills, said the report by UK Onshore Operators Group. Otherwise, developers would look overseas.
"We are building an industry in this country which will not only give the UK energy security and make a big contribution in tax revenues but will also bring immense benefits to other industries and create sustainable, well-paid jobs," said Ken Cronin, chief executive of the UK Onshore Operators Group.
Billions of pounds of investment would be needed to provide specialised equipment, steel, rig manufacturing and waste, storage and transportation services, the report said.
"Citizens need to take a considered view of shale, facing the realities of our long-term need for gas,” said Gary Smith, national officer of the GMB union.
"The challenge is whether we can build an environmentally sensitive industry, serving the energy needs of the country, while generating thousands of well-paid unionised jobs."
However, environmentalists were less impressed by the report’s conclusions.
"This report is a rehash of rose-tinted industry guesstimates about the economic potential of fracking in the UK,” said Greenpeace UK chief scientist Doug Parr.
"Paying accountants to tally up hypothetical jobs won't change the fact that executives still have no idea whether they'll actually be able to get gas out of the ground on a commercial scale in the UK.”