In Bad News on the Fracking Front, the UK Could Be Significantly Less Gassy Than First Thought

By Shabana Arif on at

A recent study carried out by researchers at the University of Nottingham and the British Geological Survey (BGS) suggests that the UK's reserves of shale gas could be drastically lower than previously touted.

According to the BBC, researchers developed their own methods of analysis compared to those used in the 2013 study by the BGS that concluded that the UK was fit to burst with shale gas, having one of the world's biggest reserves up north that contains around 1,300 trillion cubic feet of the stuff.

"Even if we extract just a tenth of that figure, that is still the equivalent of 51 years' gas supply," former PM David Cameron had said when the report was published. The latest study claims that this is a load of guff, and estimates that the actual supply will run out in five to seven years.

"In terms of the total gas in place, the mean value from the 2013 study was 1,300 trillion feet of gas, we are struggling to get anywhere above 200 trillion feet," explained lead author, Prof Colin Snape.

"The data we've got from the two shales we've looked at are very consistent - and gas companies Cuadrilla and Third Energy have just published two papers in the last year where they have taken core samples and measured the gas that's evolved and that data is very, very consistent with our own data."

The study is getting flack for its sample size, which is too small to infer larger conclusions from.

"Those involved in publishing this should be embarrassed," said Cuadrilla chief executive, Francis Egan, in the midst of a full-on hangry episode, by the sounds of things.

"We hold more data and technical experience of the Bowland shale than anyone else in the UK yet not once did anyone from this research group or Nottingham University contact us for our view or input," he added, as if that was somehow a prerequisite of anyone else conducting their own investigations.

United Kingdom Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG) also pooh-poohed the paper, with chief executive Ken Cronin saying:

"To date we have made significant advancements in the understanding of the resource potential contained within UK shale, with very encouraging results seen at both Springs Road and Preston New Road which have demonstrated properties in line with world class, US shale plays.

"What we know now is that we have a world class resource which has broadly supported the estimates originally published by the British Geological Survey. Indeed, in terms of potential gas flow indications, the results are at the upper end of our original forecasts."

I guess we won't know who's right until we get drilling, which is going to carry on regardless anyway. We'll check back in five to seven years to see who has egg on their face. [BBC]