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SHALE GAS: UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT FOR ITS CONSEQUENCES ON WATER AVAILABILITY

Today, shale gas represents one of the central issues of the political agenda in many countries.  The shale gas revolution began nearly 10 years ago in the United States: experts stress that it is prone to spread across the globe.

According to experts, shale gas could reinforce energy security of many countries while cutting emissions. However, shale gas raises concerns and doubts. Many experts recognize that unlocking this massive resource entails a significant environmental riskaccess to freshwater for drinking, agriculture, and industrial use.

Experts outline thatdrilling and then hydraulic fracturing each shale gas well means the use of large volumes of water for short periods of time: between 7 million and 25 million litres (1.2 million and 6.6 million gallons).

A recent report, called the Global Shale Development: Water Availability & and Business Risk, has revealed a series of water availability-related challenges that could represent a limit for shale resource development on six continents.

Experts highlight that three countries can be a good example in order to understand the complex issues that shale gas entail: China, Argentina, and the United Kingdom.

Chinarepresents the world’s largest energy producer and consumer. Data show that China has the world’s largest technically recoverable shale gas resources. However, these resources are located in areas of highest water stress. Additionally, studies indicate that over 60 per cent of Chinese shale resources are in areas of high to extremely high baseline water stress or even arid conditions.

In this context, the government and energy companies are already working to establish concrete measures to overcome the difficulties.

China’s two largest energy companies have recently upgraded their forecasts for shale investments, even as the Chinese government has significantly reduced its shale gas production targets earlier in August. China is the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, data say. In relation to that, Chinese shale resources could represent a key strategy to address climate change related issues. Despite this possibility, experts stress to focus on water issues: China must address water concerns, experts stress.

In relation to that, reports show that the government and energy companies are trying to undertake a good way to balance their large reserves and limited water availability.

Moreover, Argentina is South America’s largest natural gas producer and consumer, with the world’s second-largest technically recoverable shale gas resources. With low or medium stress over 72 per cent of its shale resources,competition for water is less concerning to Argentinian plays overall. However, 28 per cent of the resources are in arid areas, so the country will need to focus on water-related constraints if shale development progresses. Studies indicate that 28 per cent of the resources in Argentina are in arid areas: in this way, the country will have to address water-related issues if shale development progresses.

The U.K. represents Europe’s third-largest natural gas producer. Data stress that industrial water use accounts for more than 30 per cent of the nation’s total water demand: however, those withdrawals have been reducing for the past 10 years as natural gas and oil production declines.

In this framework, the U.K. government is offering tax breaks in order to foster shale development. Experts highlight that the government will need to manage water-related risks with stronger measures if shale drilling and hydraulic fracturing expands. In this way, the use of water for shale gas process is increasing both public concern and conflicts around hydraulic fracturing. 

Shale gas entails significant social, environmental and financial challenges. In the next future, competition for water as well as public concerns over hydraulic fracturing will increase as shale development expands internationally and global temperature and precipitation patterns shift, experts say.

 

The gLAWcal Team

EPSEI project

Saturday, 8 November 2014

(Source: ChinaWaterRisk)