Event report: THE SHALE GAS REVOLUTION – A blessing or a curse?

THE SHALE GAS REVOLUTION – A blessing or a curse?

By: Alexandra Dumitru

The exploration of unconventional energy sources such as shale gas was made possible by a new technology called hydraulic fracturing or fracking. Wide experimentation in the United States has made exploration of shale resources commercially feasible and brought about the shale (gas) revolution in the United States. According to an article published on 5 May 2013 in the Financial Times, the United States is expected to become a net exporter of gas by 2020 now the Obama administration has expressed its support towards exports. The main questions arising from the developments in the US revolve around the impact of shale gas exploration and the economic consequences for the rest of the world. Will shale gas be a global game changer? Will it have a role in the transition of the power sector? Can exploration be executed without major environmental impact?

On May 24th 2013, YES-DC invited three experts with very different backgrounds and perspectives on the topic in an attempt to answer some of the questions above: Henk Duyverman, director at Cuadrilla Resources Netherlands, Jeroen de Joode, Researcher and Gas Coordinator at ECN Policy Studies and Ko van Huissteden, Chairman of Shale Gas Free Netherlands and associate professor at the VU University Amsterdam, Faculty of Earth Science. The event was held at the Academiegebouw in Utrecht and was marked by a fairly high number of participants (46), illustrating the relevance on the topic within the energy industry.

A short introduction of YES-DC was followed by Henk ’s presentation. The main goal of his presentation was to explain the technical details of hydraulic fracturing and reassure everyone that the method is not dangerous for the environment or human establishments as long as it is done appropriately (according to the most stringent safety and environmental standards). Cuadrilla only works according to such standards and uses the newest technology to limit any impact of drilling activities. Therefore, their operations should not be compared to what has taken place in the United States so far. Henk also zoomed in on the documentary Gasland and explained why the arguments used against shale gas exploration in the documentary are not plausible.

The floor was given to Jeroen who focused on the impact of shale gas on the European energy market and the role gas can play in the transition of the energy sector. Based on the (economic) analysis of several scenarios, Jeroen concluded that shale gas will not be a game changer in Europe, not from the energy dependency perspective, not for the transition of the power sector.

A short break was followed by the Ko ‘s presentation which focused on the negative impacts of shale gas exploration. Besides the usual direct impacts such as water pollution and earthquakes, Ko also highlighted the indirect effects such as the large scale industrialization around exploration sites. He further argued that shale gas is also not the right solution from an economic perspective or from the perspective of climate change policy.

The evening was closed with a 30 minutes debate which turned very lively due to the high degree of curiosity and criticism of the audience. Feedback indicated the event was well appreciated by all present.

For more information on the content of the evening, please find the three presentations below.

[message_box title=”HENK DUYVERMAN – Director at Cuadrilla Resources Netherlands.” color=”white”]
Henk had elaborated on the technical aspects of shale gas exploration, its commercial viability and its advantages.

Henk has 30 years of experience in the energy sector, specifically oil and gas. He previously worked for Statoil and Shell in various countries and the Geological Service of the Netherlands within TNO. He holds a PhD degree in Geology from the Open University of England.[/message_box]

[message_box title=”Jeroen de Joode – Researcher and Gas Coordinator at ECN Policy Studies. ” color=”white”]

Jeroen had discussed the market impact of the shale gas revolution in Europe and the Netherlands, and its role in the transition of the energy sector.

Jeroen has a background in economics (MSc from University of Tilburg in 2003, PhD from Delft University of Technology in 2012) and has been working for the Energy research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) since 2004. Before joining ECN he worked for the Netherlands’ Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB) and the Dutch Energy Council. His main research interests are the long-term role of gas in energy transition and the functioning and regulation of gas markets.

[message_box title=”Ko van Huissteden – representing Shale Gas Free Netherlands.” color=”white”]

Ko had braught arguments against the exploration of shale gas, both with respect to social and environmental aspects, as well as its role as a solution to climate change mitigation.

Ko is Chairman of Shale Gas Free Netherlands and associate professor at the VU University Amsterdam, Faculty of Earth Science. He holds a PhD in Physical Geography / Quaternary geology from VU University Amsterdam. Ko’s research actvities focus on carbon fluxes from wetlands with an emphasis on measurement and modeling of methane fluxes from permafrost areas at high northern latitudes.

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