New Geochemical Survey: Massive Stores Of UK Shale Gas Will Tempt Frackers

  • Date: 08/03/14
  • Andy Coghlan, New Scientist

Rocks underneath England may have oil and gas stores comparable to those under the North Sea, according to new geochemical surveys. The finding will give extra impetus to companies that want to extract the gas by hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”.

A study of 200 samples, from shale rock formations throughout England, suggest they contain as much oil and gas per cubic metre as rocks under the North Sea once did.

“The onshore shales are rich enough in organic material and have the right petrology for hydraulic fracturing,” says project leader Alastair Fraser of Imperial College London, UK. “They’ve been buried to appropriate depths, exceeding 3 kilometres, and so fracking should work.”

Fraser presented his preliminary results on 4 March at the Shale UK conference in London.

Fracking in the UK

Last year, the British Geological Survey (BGS) published a survey of shale gas in northern England. A formation called the Bowland-Hodder contains some 37.7 trillion cubic metres of gas, enough to supply the UK’s gas needs for at least 40 years.

Fraser has taken samples further east in a continuation of the same formation, and they corroborate the BGS study. He found layers of fuel-bearing rock between 200 and 300 metres thick, with an organic content of 3 to 7 per cent. They could yield up to 20 kilograms of gas or oil per tonne of rock. “This is comparable to yields from similar rock formations under the North Sea that have yielded oil and gas for decades,” Fraser says.

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