Amid the ruckus of Great Britain’s reckless Brexit saga, one might not have noticed the ongoing environmental battle that could put a sudden end to shale gas development in the UK. While Britain’s energy security does not have any direct links to Brexit – its hydrocarbon production went into decline in 2000 and has been falling ever since, although the mid-2010s evidenced a stabilization of output – the UK High Court decision over the nation’s shale gas projects might deal a painful blow to the little hope British producers had to kick-start something new. All 9 basins of the Greater North Sea are mature and it is only until 2025-2027 that the current output rebound can last, after that Britain’s oil output will plunge Venezuela-style unless additional measures are taken.
There is no scientific consensus on how much shale gas can be recovered across the United Kingdom. We might use the British Geological Survey’s 2013 report as a point of reference, which states that across central Britain (Bowland-Hodder shales) the aggregate shale gas reserves are somewhere within the 164-264-447 TCf interval (P90-P50-P10). Even if it were true, due to the rather difficult lithography of central Britain the actual recoverable volume would be substantially smaller. The USGS has put the total recoverable gas resources in the Midlands area of England at 8.3 TCf. The Weald Basin in southern Britain and Northern Ireland also has shale gas resources, but they are in a less advanced stage of development than shale finds in Lancashire or Nottinghamshire.
Partially motivated by the emotional drain of Brexit and the necessity to present itself as an employment creating party, the Conservative Party (seemingly) made great headway last year in advancing the cause of developing UK shale gas resources and creating the regulative norms required for it.
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