North American boom
BP estimates that, together with coal bed methane, shale gas could make up about half of indigenous North American gas supplies by 2030. North America has set the pace in gas shales; now, Europe, Australia and China are seeking to identify and exploit opportunities, but the scale of the global resource is still unknown.
The nearest drilling programme to Ireland is underway in Lancashire, UK. This is exploring geological formations linked to the Morecombe Bay and other nearby offshore gas fields as prospects for the development of shale gas.
In its Energy Outlook 2030, BP noted that although the global scale of unconventional gas has yet to be properly appraised, it 'could add another 30 years of supply'.
Already, there is a possibility that the success of shale gas in the USA could have ripple effects in other parts of the world, notably in Europe where gas prices have overtaken those in North America since the mid 2000s.
Natural gas prices 1996-2009
Liquefied natural gas (LNG)
According to the IEA, the expansion of North American shale gas production, together with the dampening of global demand through recession “is expected to prolong the glut of gas supply for the next few years” (November 2009). For Europe, this could mean additional LNG shipments – shipments that may have originally been destined for the US market.