Fear Fracktor: UK deserves informed debate on fracking

Sensationalist headlines that spread the message that ‘half of the UK is open to fracking’ might sell newspapers but they do nothing to help the UK have an informed debate on the potential exploitation of the country’s shale gas reserves.

When the government announced the bid process for the 14th onshore oil and gas licensing round earlier this week there seemed to be confusion over where fracking would take place. The licensing round opens 124,000km2 of the country for exploration, - approximately half the area of the UK, however shale gas which requires hydraulic fracturing to remove it, is only expected to be found in two areas of the country.

Detailed research by the British Geological Survey into the areas of highest shale oil and gas potential have identified two key sites; the Bowland Hodder shale basin in the North of England and the Midland Valley basin in Central Scotland. As this map from DCC shows these areas represent a very small proportion of the available acreage.

More from Arup

Potential resources in these sites vary. In England the Bowland Shale is estimated to have in the region of 1300 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas in place and in Scotland this is thought to be 80.3 tcf. However how much of this is recoverable and at what cost are the questions that needs to be answered if the UK is to have an intelligent debate on the future of fracking. And this means that the UK has to drill some test wells to determine both the gas flow rates and the quality of the gas removed.

This is also where our industry must play its role in supporting energy companies, regulators and the general public to ensure that work carried out is done so safely to the highest possible environmental standards.

This week consultant Arup stepped forward and announced that it is doing just that and in a new video above explained why it believes its work on the UK’s first two exploration sites in Lancashire for energy firm Cuadrilla are set to create a legacy for the new industry if it moves forward.

“These are the first two multi well exploration projects in the United Kingdom and so our approach has been to look at these in absolute detail and taking a very thorough approach,” says Des Correia, project director, Arup.  With over 100 site visits to each of the sites at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood and involvement of 25 different disciplines the firm has identified and evaluated all potential environmental and local risks and mitigation measures.

The sites themselves involve the creation of a 1.55h hectare, 300mm deep well pad hosting four vertical wells dropping to 3500m depth, with horizontal spur and fracking occurring at around 2000m. The flow of gas will then be monitored for an initial 90 day period with flow rates and chemical composition analysed and if rates are sufficient these will be connected in to the National Grid and monitored for a further 18 months to 2 years.

As the UK continues on its journey towards decarbonisation data such as this is vital to determine if shale gas exploitation is a necessary transitional step forwards, or an expensive and disruptive step back.


DECC 14th licensing announcement

Previous analysis: The UK needs to drill more holes

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