LONDON, Nov. 12 (UPI) — The British government said Wednesday it was seizing the shale moment through the creation of university programs aimed at training the next energy generation.
British Energy Minister Matthew Hancock said new centers of excellence established at the best universities in the country will train the next generation of specialists for the fledgling shale industry.
“Shale gas is an enormous opportunity for the U.K. and one that we simply can’t afford to miss out on,” he said in a statement. “I am not prepared to pass up a once-in-a-generation economic opportunity, with the potential for industry to invest up to $52 billion in the next 15 years or so.”
Hancock said the government is offering $1.1 million in development funds, which will be matched by the industry itself, to establish research and development programs for the emerging shale sector.
Long term, British investments in shale could reach $5.8 billion per year and support 74,000 jobs. Only by establishing the knowledge base now can the government capitalize on the expected shale future, the minister said.
The government in April offered $3.3 million to companies that come up with new ways to produce or explore shale gas, including environmental management and reservoir monitoring.
The emerging shale industry has been met with fierce opposition from environmental activists worried about the safety of hydraulic fracturing, the controversial drilling practice known also as fracking. Campaigners have expressed alarm over everything from land owner rights to groundwater contamination and drilling-related tremors.
Hancock said if the British government had taken a hesitant approach with prospects in the deep North Sea waters 50 years ago, the country would be in dire economic straits.
Last year, the British Geological survey estimated shale basins in the country may hold more than 1.3 quadrillion cubic feet of natural gas, a level the government said could help an economy with natural gas imports on pace to increase from 45 percent of demand in 2011 to 76 percent by 2030.