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PwC warns shale oil surge poses risk to renewable energy

Green groups have warned against huge shale oil risks after a report found it could comprise 12 per cent of oil production in 2035, the Guardian has reported.

A worldwide expansion of relatively cheap shale oil could put investment in renewable energy and global emissions targets under threat, as well as posing other environmental risks.

The shale oil industry is still in its infancy, but has the potential to reach up to 12 per cent of global production, potentially pushing down oil prices by as much as $50 per barrel by 2035, according to a new report by consultancy firm PwC.

The report also notes that cheaper oil could displace production from higher cost and more environmentally sensitive areas such as the Arctic and Canadian tar sands, while tax windfalls could provide finance for carbon capture and storage and other low carbon technologies.

It adds that global GDP could receive a $2.7tr boost by 2035 with a 25 per cent to 40 per cent cut in global oil prices resulting from shale oil production.

Under this scenario, UK GDP would receive a 3.3 per cent boost in 2035, China would see a three per cent GDP increase, US GDP would rise 4.7 per cent, and India’s would climb by up to 7.3 per cent.

In the US, shale oil production has risen from 111,000 barrels per day in 2004 to 553,000 barrels a day in 2011, equivalent to an annual growth rate of around 26 per cent.

In the rest of the world the industry remains in its early stages, although China, Australia, Mexico, Argentina, Russia, and New Zealand are all exploring the potential for shale oil development.

Supporters of shale gas argue that the fuel source can deliver net carbon savings by replacing coal, but shale oil remains significantly more carbon intensive raising concerns that the availablility of a new cheaper source of oil will only lead to higher overall emissions.

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