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British Geological Survey says UK shale gas deposits far larger than originally thought

28 June 2013

In a long-awaited report, the British Geological Survey estimates that there could be 1,300 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas trapped in the rocks under Lancashire, Yorkshire and surrounding counties - far more than previously thought. The report said the figure would help the industry and regulators plan future drilling, so it can "determine how much of the gas would be able to be commercially drilled".

A shale gas test rig in Lancashire - Photo: Cuadrilla
A shale gas test rig in Lancashire - Photo: Cuadrilla

There are as yet no estimates as to how much can be recovered by fracking, the process of blasting water, sand and chemicals into the ground to release the gas, but even if only 10% is extracted, it could potentially meet Britain's annual gas demand, of 3 tcf, for more than 40 years.

Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury, said the BGS figure "confirms the huge potential that shale gas has for the UK". Announcing it alongside other energy announcements, he said ministers were "ready to unleash the energy revolution our country needs".

If 130 tcf could be extracted it would mean Britain could get more gas from fracking than has been extracted from the entire UK North Sea to date. Britain produced 85.6 tcf of gas between 1970 and 2012, according to BP statistics.

As part of the government's infrastructure investment plans unveiled on Jun 27, the fracking industry pledged to give £100,000 for communities situated near each exploratory well, and 1% of revenues from every production site.

Companies drilling for shale gas in the north west have also released their own estimates of volumes, with Cuadrilla suggesting its "conservative" figure for gas in its Bowland shale licence area was 200 tcf and IGas saying there could be as much as 172 tcf in its licence areas.

Shale gas has tranformed the energy landscape in America, heralding a new era of cheap gas that has transformed its manufacturing sector and is turning the country from an importer to an exporter.

Ministers hope shale gas can have a similar effect in Britain as North Sea reserves dwindle, helping to stem rises in gas prices for household energy consumers. Shale gas development is in its early stages in the UK, but there are already 176 licenses for onshore oil and gas exploration currently issued.




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