The carbon footprint of shale gas combusted in Europe was estimated from nine European shale gas plays as potential production regions. Greenhouse gas emission sources during shale gas production, such as fugitives from hydraulic fracturing or combustion emissions from horizontal drilling, were added to emissions occurring for conventional gas extraction. Greenhouse gas emissions are expressed as g CO2-equivalents per MJ delivered, and calculated for a kWh of electricity generated. Estimated total GHG emissions from the use of European shale gas for electricity production range from 0.42 to 0.75 g CO2-eq/kWh when the combustion in the power plant is included. This is within the range reported in the literature. The cumulative carbon footprints for a number of fossil electricity generation scenarios for Europe were also calculated. The results indicate an advantage of gas over other fossil sources in a wide range of scenarios. These results are only reversed with very high (10%) upstream losses for shale gas. With the current knowledge there is still a substantial climate benefit of replacing coal with (shale) gas even in the EU reference scenario.

The work was undertaken by TNO, the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research with support from (S&T)2 Consultants Inc. It can be found online at Taylor & Francis Online.