Energy minister Michael Fallon was today urging the Lancashire community to get behind shale gas as latest estimates said “fracking” could be worth £33bn to the UK economy, creating 64,500 jobs over 15 years.
Mr Fallon was due to speak in Blackpool at the North West shale gas supply chain conference at the Winter Gardens.
The conference has been organised by the North West Energy Task Force – a group of businesses who say the value of shale gas extraction must be explored.
Keynote speaker Mr Fallon has written a forword to an Ernst & Young study into the benefits of shale gas, commissioned by the UK Onshore Operators Group.
In it, he says: “I want this report to be a call to action for the UK supply chain for small and large companies, whether in Lancashire or Lowestoft, whether in the steel industry, the chemical industry or in other manufacturing and services.
“The message is: get ready for shale.”
The EY report supports a study by the Institute of Directors last year that says that between 2016 and 2032, around £33bn could be spent bringing 4,000 wells into production.
This would equate to 64,500 UK jobs created, of which 6,100 would be direct roles.
The EY report says the jobs created would be highly-skilled direct site development roles, with many others involved in the supply chain.
The report says the spend would include £17bn on specialised equipment; £4.1bn on water and fluid waste, storage and transportation; and a £1.6bn rig manufacturing industry.
Cuadrilla, which is bidding to drill for shale gas in Lancashire, has promised that wherever possible contracts and jobs would be created locally.
But opponents including Greenpeace have recently slammed similar figures as “pie in the sky” estimates.
Mr Fallon said the EY report “demonstrates the big prize that could be available to the UK.”
Mr Fallon said the benefits could be similar to the North Sea gas and oil boom, where Aberdeen had experienced many positive benefits.
He added: “By comparison, the onshore shale industry is still in its infancy in the UK. As we press on with exploration there is an opportunity for the supply chain, so the benefits can be secured for the UK.”
The minister was also expected to announce £2m funding for research into shale gas extraction safety and efficiency initiatives, and the introduction of environmental risk assessments for any proposed site.
Meanwhile, Cuadrilla insists it is trying to be a “good neighbour” to rural communities as it plans to drill for shale gas across Lancashire.
On the day that public consultation closes for the Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road sites between Preston and Blackpool, the company has revealed it is now only a matter of weeks away from applying for planning permission to begin fracking at both locations.
As part of the consultation process Cuadrilla says it has written to more than 9,000 households and held a variety of public events.