An expert in the process industry yesterday welcomed Government support for fracking, claiming it and associated technologies could lead to a resurgence of energy production in the North East.
Dr Stan Higgins, chief executive officer of the North East Process Industry Cluster, said it could open the way to a new lease of life for places like the Durham Coalfield.
He was speaking after Chancellor George Osborne announced tax breaks and fast-track permits for firms involved in the controversial method of extracting gas from rock.
Higgins said the expansion of the industry would mean more jobs in the region.
He said the coalfield could be exploited for sythesis gas used for industrial purposes.
He said: “There is more energy in the Durham Coalfield than we ever had coming out of the North Sea. I believe fracking and underground gasification will help us extract that energy and this could be a game-changer for the North East economy.
“They have provided us with real hope that we can re-establish the North East as a place for energy production. This could be the beginning of an industrial revolution in the region.”
The easing of restrictions on the industry comes after a report from the Institute of Directors which said one third of the UK’s gas requirements could be supplied by shale gas extraction by 2030 and the industry would support as many as 74,000 jobs. Opponents say fracking, a way of fracturing rock to obtain the gas deposits inside, causes earthquakes and environmental damage.
Higgins said an expansion of the controversial industry will cut the UK’s need for imports and lead to cheaper prices.
He said: “The Process Industry welcomes the Government’s announcement that investment into shale gas extraction will be encouraged.
“Hopefully the speedy implementation of shale gas extraction and also a related technology of underground coal gasification are two ways that the UK could counteract this and return to globally competitive energy pricing. Shale gas is exactly the same stuff as natural gas we use today except it is trapped in the rocks. Introducing small fractures to the rocks is a process called “fracking” and it is this that releases small bubbles of the natural gas from the rock so that it can be collected and used in our homes and factories.
“It is the same gas that will emerge from the pipe in the kitchen or factory floor.”
The Redcar-based North East Process Industry Cluster represents more than 500 chemical, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, energy and renewables businesses and their support companies across the North East. The companies generate in excess of ï¿½10bn of sales and employ about 35,000 people impacting on a further 200,000 supply chain jobs.