A new report on the development of UK unconventional gas (in this case shale gas, by Ernst & Young Global) has hit the headlines, and with industry required to develop 4,000 wellheads over the next 20 years why wouldn’t it?

The headlines are impressive, if perhaps exaggerated: “£33 billion and over 64,000 jobs”. But the message is unequivocal: Britain needs energy security; we need the gas; North Sea supply is running down and unconventional gas is our alternative; so get ready for it.

The EY report lists many supply chain issues, none of which are particularly difficult. We’ve had 40+ years of getting our heads round the oil & gas industry, so with a little encouragement and  bit of cash we’ll soon deliver.

However, to our minds the report misses one key aspect on the positive side of the search for and delivery of unconventional gas: an aspect that will help dispel the doubters, smooth the planning, construction and production of wells, and could provide the UK with an external income for decades to come.

How many people are aware of the fact that there are over 2000 nodding donkeys, well sites and above ground gas installations currently in the UK countryside today? Unless you walk your dog by one you’ll be blissfully unaware that these vital components of the onshore oil and gas technology (which help heat your, water, house and food) are practically invisible.

In 40+ years of oil and gas production the UK has become good at designing, building then hiding these things away. That process will be repeated with unconventional gas sites. Even the construction work can be done with very little disruption to the local environment.

We think: if we’re going to start the exploration of unconventional gas in earnest we should be ready to do it properly, show the people and the world what we can do, then export the engineering capability (like we used to do).