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Estimates for UK shale gas reserves increase significantly

04 June 2013

UK onshore oil and gas developer IGas said on June 3 that estimates of shale gas in its license areas in northwest England have been estimated at up to 170 trillion cubic feet (Tcf). The company's licences cover an area of 300 sq. miles across Cheshire. It had previously estimated it had about nine TcF of shale gas.

Licensed areas for UK onshore drilling
Licensed areas for UK onshore drilling

The UK's annual gas consumption is currently about 3 trillion cubic feet.

IGas said it constructed a geological model using seismic subsurface data from 20 offset wells and geological data from its well at Ince Marshes, and this model was used to estimate the volume of gas initially in place within the shales in the 300 square miles that its licenses cover. The low estimate was for 15.1 Tcf of gas, the most likely estimate at 102 Tcf and the high estimate at 172.3 Tcf.

IGas confirmed that its proposed drilling programme, which is scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter of 2013, is at an advanced stage. Long-lead items, such as wellheads and casings, have now been ordered and negotiations with drilling and related service companies are well advanced.

In a statement, IGas CEO Andrew Austin said: "The announcement of the gas in place volumes of up to circa 170 Tcf in our North West acreage follows the completion of a very thorough study by the IGas technical team and supports our view that these licences have a very significant shale gas resource with the potential to transform the company and materially benefit the communities in which we operate.

"The planned drilling program, commencing later this year, will further refine these estimates and advance our understanding of this shale basin. We will in due course carry out further analysis and reinterpretation of existing seismic and subsurface data to evaluate the potentially prospective shale resources in the East Midlands and Weald Basin license areas."

Energy firm Cuadrilla, which has drilled wells near Blackpool in Lancashire, says it has 200 trillion cubic feet of gas in its licence area of the Bowland Shale. That suggests overall numbers for the region could be in excess of 400-500 trillion cubic feet in total.

"It's not unreasonable to assume that there could be as much as 500 trillion cubic feet in the Bowland shale across the North West," said Austin. "Even if the industry can only extract a fraction of that, combined with North Sea reserves, it could make the UK self sufficient in gas for decades to come."

The amount of gas that is extractable will become clearer once a significant number of wells have been drilled and gas flow rates tested. IGas plans to carry out exploratory drilling, not including fracking, in Cheshire at the end of the year.

A report by the British Geological Survey for the Department of Energy and Climate Change is due to give an updated assessment of how much gas there is in the Bowland Shale in the North West of England in the coming weeks.

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