On Thursday 16th February, The Telegraph published an inaccurate article, without comment from Cuadrilla. The article asserts that Cuadrilla’s shale gas exploration wells in Lancashire “produced no burnable gas at all.” The article is categorically wrong on that point and on several others.
Each of our two Lancashire gas exploration wells flowed very high-quality natural gas to surface from just a handful of fractures completed in the underlying shale rock. The limited number of fractures completed was due to the regulatory requirement to halt operations any time micro-seismicity induced by fracturing exceeded just 0.5 on the Richter scale. A study by Liverpool University has equated the impact of a 0.5 micro-seismic event to sitting down on an office chair.
Mr Warner further claims that less than one hundredth of the huge in place gas resource of 37.6 trillion cubic metres could be extracted. However, the report he references has no actual UK data on gas recovery. Furthermore, it uses pre-2010 US data, before hydraulic fracturing techniques were advanced to improve gas recoveries to as high as 30% of in-place volumes. Just 10% gas recovery from the Bowland shale could supply 50 years’ worth of current UK gas demand.
In terms of land use, to produce the same amount of energy as a single 4-hectare shale gas site of 40 wells would require a wind farm some 1500 times that size or a solar park nearly 1000 times the size. Shale gas is by far the best option to minimise land use per energy produced.
At current UK gas prices, the value of just 10% of the in-place UK resource would be approximately £3.3 trillion. The potential tax take from producing this could be close to £200 billion. Imported gas produces no tax, no jobs and higher CO2 emissions. Gas prices can of course go down but we do not share Mr Warner’s doubts that UK could ever be commercially viable.
Gas from the existing Cuadrilla wells could and should be flowing to local domestic consumers within 12 months of equipment re-mobilising to site. An additional half a dozen such sites located across the North of England could be likewise producing gas and making a material contribution to our energy security and tax revenue within a further 3 to 4 years.
The case for shale gas is strong and fundamentally logical. The UK Government needs to lift the moratorium urgently.