World Resources Institute issues shale gas ‘wake-up call’

The World Resources Institute has published what it calls “a wake-up call for countries seeking to develop shale gas“.

In it the WRI states that governments and businesses using hydraulic fracturing ” or fracking ” to develop shale gas could face intense water competition in the world’s largest reserves.

The report – Global Shale Gas Development: Water Availability & Business Risk -à‚  finds that 38 per cent of the world’s shale resources face high to extremely high water stress or arid conditions.

WRI president Andrew Steer said: “Water risk is one of the most important, but underappreciated, challenges when it comes to shale gas development. With 386 million people living on land above shale plays, governments and business face critical choices about how to manage their energy and water needs.”

He said that “energy development and responsible water management must go hand in hand”.

The report ranks water stress across the 20 countries with the largest shale resources and in 40 per cent of these countries, future shale production could happen in arid conditions or under high water stress.

The report also evaluates water availability for every shale play in the 11 countries either pursuing or most likely to pursue hydraulic fracturing: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Mexico, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the UK and the US.

The WRI stresses that water availability and shale resources vary from country to country, making hydraulic fracturing’s potential unique in almost every location.

The report’s lead autor Paul Reig said: “With many countries already facing arid conditions and high water stress around the globe, this report can help to ensure that there’s enough water available for industries, farms, and people, even if shale development advances.”

The report puts forward four recommendations to help governments, companies, and civil societies protect water security while minimizing business risks:

à‚·à‚ à‚ à‚ à‚ à‚ à‚ à‚ à‚  Conduct water risk assessments to understand local water availability and reduce business risk;

à‚·à‚ à‚ à‚ à‚ à‚ à‚ à‚ à‚  Increase transparency and engage with local regulators, communities, and industry to minimize uncertainty;

à‚·à‚ à‚ à‚ à‚ à‚ à‚ à‚ à‚  Ensure adequate water governance to guarantee water security and reduce regulatory and reputational risks;

à‚·à‚ à‚ à‚ à‚ à‚ à‚ à‚ à‚  Minimize freshwater use and engage in corporate water stewardship to reduce impacts on water availability.

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