Shale gas exploration could help save the UK’s steel industry from possible demise if the government helps build strong local supply chains, a Labour MP has said.
The fracking industry, if it takes off, will require dozens of drilling rigs and thousands of kilometres of steel casing – delivery of which could cost almost £4bn, presenting a huge opportunity for the struggling steelmaking sector.
"The nascent shale gas industry offers one of those rare opportunities to create a new demand for steel, something that we badly need at the moment and a new sense of hope therefore for a positive future for what is one of our foundation industries," said Angela Smith, Labour MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, during a debate in Westminster.
According to Smith, the government has to act to make sure UK industry does not miss the boat as it did in case of offshore wind energy generation, where opportunities to build solid supply chains have clearly been missed.
"The government has a role to play in supporting the steel industry to exploit the opportunities available and to thereby secure a better future for itself," she said, adding that a supply chain strategy needs to be developed which "guarantees that the best of British will lie at the heart of a successful, safe and environmentally sustainable British shale gas industry".
Government support, she argued, is needed in the evolution of a wider range of steel capabilities by building the business case for the development of a UK shale gas supply chain.
It has been estimated that shale gas exploration would need some 50 drilling rigs, costing about £1.6bn to manufacture, and some 12,000km of high-quality steel casing costing £2.3bn.
Earlier this month Stephen Kinnock, Labour MP for Aberavon, said the government should urgently decide on support for the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project in order to give steelmakers in Wales the opportunity to benefit from the development.
Yesterday it was revealed that a major wind park only an hour’s drive from the crisis-stricken Port Talbot Tata Steel plant, has been built using steel imported from China.