Fracking could be less productive than we thought

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has been historically controversial. In 2011, the fracturing of subterranean rocks by the Cuadrilla energy company caused a 2.3 Richter scale magnitude tremor, followed by a 1.5 magnitude tremor the next month. These tremors caused prompted protests and eventually the closure of the Lancashire site. In 2018, fracking was allowed to resume in the UK, leading protesters to block entry to Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site in an attempt to disrupt operations. Since its resumption, the site has been closed numerous times for causing tremors that surpassed legal limits.

Despite these protests, fracking has continued. One of the major reasons for the Government’s continued support of fracking has been the lucrative nature of the business. Fracking can provide access to very large quantities of oil and gas and can do so at lower costs than the costs of most renewable energy sources, while reducing reliance on imports. Previous estimations had claimed that gas produced from fracking could provide up to 50 years’ worth of power to meet the UK’s energy demand.

A new study conducted by the British Geological Survey (BGS) in co-operation with the University of Nottingham is refuting these claims. The BGS’s estimation suggests that there may be less than 10 years’ worth of gas left in Bowland shale reserves, if the UK continues to consume energy at current levels of demand. This makes up less than 20 per cent of the original estimate. These new estimates are based on the maximum gas in place (GIP) measurements of Bowland Shale formations in central England. As such, they do not provide a full representation of the UK’s entire underground gas and oil supply. This fact has been addressed by one of the report’s authors, Professor Mike Stephenson, and reacted to by Cuadrilla’s Chief Executive Francis Egan, who claims that the company has seen “encouraging results” since resuming operations in Lancashire this month, following a testing period due to fracking-related seismic tremors, reported on here. Egan claims that Cuadrilla is better able than the BGS to determine the capacity of UK shale reserves through drilling, fracking and testing gas and oil flow.

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