Too Good To Be True? ‘Britain Has Shale Gas For 1500 Years’

  • Date: 09/02/13
  • Tim Webb, Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson, The Times

Britain could have enough shale gas to heat every home for 1,500 years, according to new estimates that suggest reserves are 200 times greater than experts previously believed. The British Geological Survey is understood to have increased dramatically its official estimate of the amount of shale gas to between 1,300 trillion and 1,700 trillion cubic feet, dwarfing its previous estimate of 5.3 trillion cubic feet.

According to industry sources, the revised estimates will be published by the Government next month, fuelling hopes that new “fracking” techniques to capture trapped resources will result in cheaper energy bills.

It is thought that it will be technically possible to recover up to a fifth of this gas, making Britain’s shale rocks potentially as bountiful as those in the US. Experts stressed that it was still much too early to say how much of the gas it would be economic to get out of the ground to heat homes and help to generate electricity.

 

In an interview with The Times today, Ed Davey, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, tries to downplay hopes of a shale gas glut in the UK pushing down household heating bills, which are at record highs. “It is not the golden goose. The experts are clear that they do not expect this to have a major impact on the gas price.”

The UK Onshore Operators Group (UKOOG), which also represents other onshore oil and gas producers, is aiming to win over public opinion about the shale gas industry, in particular by countering claims that the process of fracking poses an environmental menace.

The shale gas industry is gearing up for a year of intense activity after the Government lifted an 18-month moratorium on fracking in December. The ban was imposed in May 2011 after Cuadrilla Resources, the explorer backed by Lord Browne of Madingley, the former chief executive of BP, set off dozens of earth tremors when it began fracking on sites near Blackpool. The company intends to resume fracking this summer to find out more about the size and commercial potential of its reserves.

Other explorers sitting on vast shale gas deposits will also apply for fracking licences soon. Government officials are preparing to hold an onshore oil and gas licensing round this year which could result in more parts of the UK being opened up for shale exploration.

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