UK Shale Gas Deposit Reported to be Larger than First Thought

on Dec 10, 2012

On 8 December 2012, The Times reported that the shale gas deposit near Blackpool was 50 percent bigger than previously thought with the news likely to put more pressure on the UK government to lift the current ban on shale gas extraction. Fracking, as the extraction technique is known, was suspended in the UK after last year drilling by Cuadrilla Resources Ltd, which used the technique near Blackpool, was accused of causing small earth tremors.

**Blackpool Deposit 50 Percent Larger**
The British Geological Survey (BGS) is carrying out an analysis of shale gas deposits, with the results likely to be published in 2013. The Times, however, reports that the BGS is expected to conclude that the Bowland Basin area of 1,000 square kilometres to the east of Blackpool has a deposit of 300 trillion cubic feet of gas, which is about 17 times more than the known reserves in the North Sea. The anticipated survey results will beat estimates by Cuadrilla published a year earlier, which valued the Bowland Basin deposit at 200 trillion cubic feet.

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The Times reports that Cuadrilla’s CEO Francis Egan declined to comment on the BGS estimate, while noting that his company “got a lot of flak for the 200 trillion cubic feet number.” He is also quoted as saying that anywhere between zero and 40 percent of the gas in the ground could be recovered at a cost well below present gas prices.
**Extraction Controversy**

!m[The News To Put More Pressure On Ministers To Lift Extraction Ban](/uploads/story/998/thumbs/pic1_inline.png)The news is likely to add to the existing pressure on ministers to lift the ban on fracking, with the energy secretary Ed Davey expected this week to give the go-ahead to Cuadrilla to resume operations. Although shale gas can potentially bring down energy bills, it is considered controversial because of the extraction process, or fracking, which involves pumping water into rocks to force the gas out. The controversial technique was suspended in the UK after being accused of causing two minor earthquakes near Blackpool in 2011.

**Gas Strategy**
The news about the Blackpool deposit also comes shortly after the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne pointed out that shale gas could make a “substantial contribution” to gas supplies in the UK from the 2020s, as reported by The Telegraph. In his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor said that the shale gas development would be managed by an Office for Unconventional Gas and Oil, ensuring that regulation was safe but simple. “We don’t want British families and businesses to be left behind as gas prices tumble on the other side of the Atlantic,” Mr Osborne said, as quoted by The Telegraph.

The new gas generation strategy, published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change on December 5 admits that while “there are very large quantities of gas in the shales beneath the UK, not enough is known to estimate what fraction of this could be produced”. In addition, the strategy also cautions that shale gas production is likely to grow at a slower pace in the UK than in the US. The Times however quotes Cuadrilla’s Mr Egan as saying that matching even half of the US shale boom would represent success for Britain.


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