The exploitation of UK shale gas resources has the potential to create thousands of high-skilled engineering jobs over the next decade, one of the UK’s largest engineering institutions has said.

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers, in a policy statement circulated to parliamentarians, notes that 4,200 jobs per year would be created over a ten-year drill programme, with 1,300 created annually in Lancashire alone. The engineering skills developed could then be sold abroad, just as the oil and gas experience built up in North Sea oilfields is now being sold across the world.

The Institution also warned that the development of shale gas must be coupled with the development of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology for use with gas-fired power plants. The statement recommends that low-carbon gas generation is included in the forthcoming Electricity Market Reform bill.

Dr Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and lead author of the Shale Gas policy statement, said: “Shale gas has the potential to give some of the regions hit hardest by the economic downturn a much-needed economic boost. The engineering jobs created will also help the Government’s efforts to rebalance the UK’s skewed economy.

“UK shale gas could make a helpful contribution to the UK’s energy security for the next two centuries, but it is not the silver bullet many claim it is. It is unlikely to have a major impact on energy prices and the possibility that the UK might ever achieve self-sufficiency in gas is remote.

“A general over-reliance on gas will render the UK a hostage to volatile global energy markets, with or without UK shale gas. It is vital that the Government continues to develop a balanced energy policy, incorporating renewables, nuclear and fossil fuels with Carbon Capture and Storage.”