U.K.'s Shale-Gas Costs Seen Limiting Price Curbs

Costs for producing shale gas in the U.K. are double that of the U.S., limiting any price reduction for consumers, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Extracting gas from shale in areas such as the Bowland basin in northern England would cost $7.10 to $12.20 per million British thermal units compared with $5 to $6 in the U.S., BNEF wrote in evidence to a House of Lords committee. The greater cost, because of higher land prices and lack of rigs and infrastructure, is close to the $8-to-$11 range in which U.K. spot prices have traded in the last two years, it said.

Exploitation of shale resources in the U.S. has seen it overtake Russia as the world’s biggest gas producer in 2009, slashing prices to a low of $1.80 per million Btu in March last year. The U.K. government, hoping to counter declining reserves from the North Sea and cut imports, has promised tax breaks to encourage drilling.

“Political, environmental and legal concerns will play a significant role in the trajectory of shale-gas development in the U.K.,” BNEF said in the report dated Sept. 30 and distributed to media today. “Ultimately, however, it will be economics that will be the deciding factor: unless the gas is profitable to extract and distribute, the total volume of U.K. shale gas resources is immaterial.”

Fields in northern England may hold as much as 1,300 trillion cubic feet of gas, the government said in June. Even in the most favorable scenario, with production at 4.5 billion cubic feet a day in the mid-2020s, the U.K. will not be self-sufficient in gas, according to today’s report.

“The reliance on continued imports will ensure that U.K. gas prices remain tied to European and world markets and so the direct impact of shale on the cost of electricity in the U.K. will be limited,” it said.

Gas prices in the U.K. were at 67.75 pence a therm today, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That equates to $10.98 per million British thermal units.

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