* Official shale gas estimate update due before summer
* UK could import U.S. LNG but at a cost
* Offshore shale projects could have bigger potential for UK
LONDON, April 26 British lawmakers criticised
the government on Friday for unnecessarily delaying development
of shale gas, saying it should now encourage companies to come
up with more accurate estimates of recoverable reserves.
The lack of progress over the past two years in exploration
and development of UK shale gas is disappointing and needs to
speed up, members of the influential cross-party Energy and
Climate Change Committee in parliament said in a report.
Britain and some other countries have considered following
the example of the Unites States, where development of shale gas
has transformed its energy market.
"We do not believe that it was necessary to take so long to
establish the safety of fracking," the report said.
Britain in the summer of 2011 temporarily banned all
hydraulic fracturing (fracking) after several earth tremors were
measured in an area near a shale gas exploration site in
Blackpool, northwest England.
It lifted the ban in December 2012 on the condition of
tighter monitoring rules after several expert reports advised a
policy in favour of fracking.
The Members of Parliament (MPs) urged the government to
speed up policy to encourage shale gas work, which they said
could help improve the security of Britain's energy supply.
Last month, finance minister George Osborne promised
generous tax breaks for shale gas developers and to help improve
the industry's public image by involving local communities.
The MPs also concluded there was still too little knowledge
about the amount of shale gas that can be technically recovered
in Britain and that the government should encourage developers
to carry out further analysis to make more comprehensive
An updated official projection of UK shale gas reserves is
expected to be published before the summer, a spokesman for the
Department for Energy and Climate Change said.
The committee also said that if the United States started
exporting its surplus as liquefied natural gas (LNG), Britain
may find it economically attractive to buy those supplies.
The substantial transportation costs mean, however, that the
price for UK buyers will be significantly higher than prevailing
Most estimates include onshore resources only, and committee
members said in their report the government should consider
giving tax breaks to offshore projects, which could hold more
reserves in the medium to long term.
"This must be done before the UK's North Sea oil and gas
platforms are decommissioned. Otherwise the opportunity to
utilise the UK's offshore oil and gas assets may pass," they
(Reporting by Karolin Schaps; editing by Jane Baird)