In December last year, we updated our 2050 Pathways calculator to include costs estimates for the different choices facing the UK’s energy infrastructure . Although there are inevitably uncertainties about predicting costs of anything decades in the future, we felt that in order to have an honest and fair discussion about the UK’s energy future we needed to reflect the potential costs.
Since then the 2050 Pathways team have received comments about how shale gas is treated within the 2050 Pathways Calculator, with some people expressing concern that we were ignoring this source of energy.
Shale gas is a natural gas (predominantly methane) found in shale rock. Natural gas produced from shale is often referred to as ‘unconventional’ and this refers to the type of rock in which it is found. ‘Conventional’ oil and gas refers to hydrocarbons which have previously been in sandstone or limestone, instead of shale or coal which are now the focus of unconventional exploration.
The 2050 Pathways Calculator does not distinguish whether natural gas in the pathways originates from ‘conventional’ or ‘unconventional’ sources. It takes natural gas as a primary energy source. If the Calculator user believes that shale gas will significantly lower the price of natural gas in the UK in the future, he/she can choose lower cost assumptions in the Calculator section ‘costs sensitivity’. The 2050 Pathways Cost analysis is in a Call for Evidence phase and we look forward to hearing ideas and comments on how to make the tool better.