The British Geological Survey in June estimated the Bowland shale formation in the north of the country contains 1.3 quadrillion cubic feet of natural gas, twice what was previously estimated. The government's report said shale could ensure energy security for a country where net natural gas imports are on pace to increase from 45 percent of demand in 2011 to 76 percent by 2030.
British Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey told the Royal Society in London shale natural gas could provide a source of economic stimulus as well as energy security.
"But let me be equally clear -- shale gas is no quick fix and no silver bullet," he said.
Davey called for "rigorous regulation" of environmental issues associated with shale development. Critics of hydraulic fracturing, a drilling practice dubbed fracking, have expressed concerned some of the chemicals used in the process could migrate to groundwater supplies.
Davey said the British economy "can't bank on shale gas" to provide a panacea for energy challenges like declining North Sea production.
"But the promising news is that U.K. shale gas could be a key and valuable resource as part of a more diverse energy mix," he said.