UK shale gas reserves 'could be less than 10 years'

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
22 August 2019

Reserves of shale gas in the UK could be 10 times lower than previously thought, according to a study.

Researchers at the University of Nottingham and the British Geological Survey said tests they have carried out suggest recoverable reserves could be less than 10 years’ gas consumption.

The study was based on samples from two locations in the Bowland shale gas field, currently being fracked near Blackpool in Lancashire by energy firm Cuadrilla.

On Wednesday a seismic event was recorded at the site, where fracking resumed last week, measuring 1.55 on the Richter scale. Cuadrilla said for local people would be “similar to a large bag of shopping dropping to the floor”. The firm said it had “paused” fracking to monitor the situation.

Researchers said previous estimates from 2013 suggested UK shale gas could provide up to 50 years’ supply. “However, the new research has found that there is significantly lower available resource, corresponding to less than 10 years’ supply at current demand,” said the University of Nottingham.

Cuadrilla refuted the findings. Chief executive Francis Egan said: “Those involved in publishing this should be embarrassed. 

“Cuadrilla is getting on with determining the capacity of UK shale reserves by the only means possible which is to drill, hydraulically fracture and test the flow rate of gas from real world wells drilled into the shale rock. Our early results are very encouraging.”

Ken Cronin, chief executive of UK Onshore Oil and Gas, said: “All research is useful, but needs to be understood in context. We remember the comment made many years ago by a senior geologist in the North Sea, who was so convinced that there wasn't any oil to be found that he promised to drink any that was discovered. Since then, the North Sea has produced over 40 billion barrels of oil equivalent.”

Meanwhile, green group Friends of the Earth has called for a ban of the fracking industry, and accused Cuadrilla of breaking earthquake safety regulations.

Jamie Peters, campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said in response to the earthquake: “It’s obvious that fracking can’t be done without triggering earthquakes. This latest quake is a sign that Cuadrilla just can’t stick within the regulations they agreed...  Earthquake regulations must be maintained for the safety of local communities. 52 seismic events in just 6 days of fracking and now the biggest earthquake at the site clearly underlines that this is absolutely not the time to start weakening regulations.

“Fracking just isn’t part of the future if the government is serious about avoiding climate breakdown... It’s time to ban climate-wrecking fracking and back renewable energy and green jobs instead.”

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