Shale gas: leading academic calls for clearer communication

Paul Boughton

High profile scientist and broadcaster Professor Iain Stewart will be speaking about the need to better communicate the science associated with shale gas at the Unconventional Gas Aberdeen conference in March 2014.

The professor of Geoscience Communication at Plymouth University, who has presented many TV series including the BBC Horizon special on fracking, admits the scientific community needs to bring to life the realities of shale gas development.

He will also launch the conference’s first academic reception, where the work of university students in the unconventional gas arena will be showcased.

Professor Stewart said: “Shale gas is at the centre of much controversy, however some of this is caused by a lack of clear communication and unfamiliar science. The public get outraged and over-estimate the risks and the scientists don’t always appreciate the depth of public concern and get defensive, so both sides end up digging their heels in. The reality is probably somewhere in the messy middle and that’s the bit I’m interested in.”

The third Unconventional Gas Aberdeen conference and exhibition takes place on March 25 and 26 at Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre.

Dan Byles, MP and leader of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Unconventional Oil and Gas (APPG UG), will address hundreds of delegates at the event. He will be joined by other distinguished speakers including Duarte Figueira, head of the Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil at DECC and Ken Cronin, CEO of UK Onshore Operators’ Group.

A number of operators will present including Chevron and Centrica and Dr Harry Bradbury, CEO of Five Quarter, a former professor at Yale University, will provide a vision for a holistic approach to energy beyond the confines of the conventional energy industry.

The conference aims to highlight barriers to development and present practical solutions based on academic research or experience from energy or related industries. A key focus will be maximising the potential of this industry to secure future energy supply with important themes such as supply chain, technology, planning, and the social licence to operate.

Mark Lappin, director of UK/Netherlands Exploration and Subsurface at Centrica Energy is chairing the event. He said: “The debate around social licensing and communication with the public are an integral part of the conference programme. This is an industry led event to address the common barriers around energy security and the role that unconventional gas can play in addressing that issue going forward. Our conference will integrate the contribution from academics, industry and the political arena.

“We are also reaching out to students to showcase their work on this subject as there is every chance that the next game-changing idea will come from the young engineering talent that the UK is producing.”

For more information, visit