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Shell chief wants less 'emotional' response to fracking

One of the world's biggest oil companies has called for a more measured response to fracking just a day after it was revealed Northern Ireland could have enough shale gas reserves to supply our natural gas needs for the next 50 years.

Shell's chief executive Peter Voser yesterday called on Europe for a less "emotional" response to fracking - the extraction of gas from rock - as he outlined plans to accelerate the oil giant's use of the controversial technology that is used to release hydrocarbons from rocks.

It follows news on Wednesday from Australian miner Tamboran Resources which said it has 'very high confidence' that it can commercially develop a substantial shale gas field in Fermanagh.

It reckoned the project could create jobs and investment of £6bn.

Opponents to fracking have raised concerns over potential earth tremors and the use of chemicals to extract the gas but Tamboran said it wouldn't need to use any chemicals if given the go-ahead in Fermanagh.

Mr Voser said Shell would invest $6bn (£3.8bn) to appraise, explore and develop gas and oil reserves contained in rocks globally this year, as it looked to significantly expand the volume of hydrocarbons it produces.

About $3bn of the total will be invested developing sites in North America, which contain gas in shale and other rocks that is released by blasting a mixture of water, chemicals and sand into them at high pressure.

"I think it's a very emotional discussion in Europe, it's not very factual. We need to get back to analysis.They should not take fast and emotional decisions," Mr Voser said.

Fracking has been steadily gaining momentum in the US in the past decade, dramatically reducing gas prices but generating a stream of accusations that it contaminates groundwater supplies.

Gas and oil companies are now turning their attention to Europe, where the industry is just starting out. In the UK, the sole fracking site, near Blackpool, has been closed for the past few months, pending a government review of the practice, after it was found to have caused earthquakes.

Although Shell does not currently frack for oil or gas in Europe it has acquired "acreage" in Germany, the Ukraine and Turkey.

Mr Voser was speaking after Shell announced a 34% jump in profits for 2011 to $28.6bn (£18.1bn) as high oil prices helped push up sales by 28% to $470.1bn.