This is a guest post by John Baldwin of CNG Services. John is a long time gas industry professional, a big fan of gas powered vehicles back when we were all running out of gas and a great and funny speaker if you ever get the chance to see him.  This is his expert take on the Bowland shale, site of the Cuadrilla exploration in the UK.

 Cuadrilla say that there could be 200tcf in their Bowland shale.

200 tcf is a lot of gas.  I can illustrate how much. 

In 1973, Gulf (now part of Chevron) drilled through the South Morecambe gas field. They said it was dry…. John Bains of British Gas looked at the logs and identified 600 feet of pay, the South Morecambe gas field. British Gas got hold of 100% of the licences in the area (Gulf gave theirs back!).  The brilliance of Bains was probably the single most important event in the history of Centrica, BG Group and National Grid. UK's largest ever gas field South Morecambe,  started production in 1984 (Boxing day, I was there, graduate engineer for British Gas Corporation), now (unfortunately) most of the gas has been produced.

South Morecambe reserves were around 6 tcf.  This is around 172 BCM of gas = 69 billion therms, worth around £40 billion in 2011 money. To put into context, UK consumes around 90 - 95 BCM per annum.  So, South Morecambe contained around 2 years worth of UK demand.

I don’t think Cuadrilla have said what % of the 200 tcf is recoverable, but if it is only 5% and their 200 tcf is correct, we are looking at 10 tcf = nearly 2 South Morecambes.

Shale has turned everything on its head in the US. Gas production was declining but is now rising and so is oil production. Essentially technology and higher prices (for oil/condensate) have transformed the recoverable reserves. Hubbert's peak concept was a good one but we can now see that you only have a peak if the price is constant and technology does not change. The development of horizontal drilling and fracking coupled with high gas prices means that US will produce more gas and oil in 2020 than it ever has....and if prices rise further, more in 2030 than it ever has.  The Peak Oil camp (I was one) were sort of right in 2007 ish but have been overtaken by technology and price.

So, it is likely that the same recovery will apply to Bowland shale.  Gas prices today are historically at their lowest ever compared to oil (on a cost per unit of energy basis). So at these prices, maybe only 5% or 10tcf of Bowland will be recovered. But if prices rise in, say, 20 years, then the gas is still in the shale and can be recovered then. You can keep going back to get long as gas recovered exceeds cost of the well and it probably will for many decades.... the gas never goes away.

I support renewables (its what my business does), the reason I support shale gas is that if there is 200 tcf in Bowland and we can get 15% of it then that 30 tcf is worth around 5 x South Morecambe = £200 billion.    Any gas from Lancashire saves imports from Qatar. So on days when there is no wind, we use Lancashire gas not Qatar LNG. The £200 billion we save goes some way to funding the insulation of all our solid wall homes and then making a transition to wind,  biomethane, Bio-SNG etc.

And hopefully there are is similar sized shale reserves in other parts of UK.

Without shale gas, I have no idea how UK can fund this insulation programme and the shift to renewables.  The Govt has quietly dropped CCS which is based on a recognition that we are broke. Shale gas is the best hope for our economy, no question. How else can we fund the insulation programme we need to reduce heating demand?

Poland thinks it may become a gas exporter by 2020, shale gas will transform their living standards and improve their environment at the expense of coal. No wonder the anti shale gas lobby is led by the coal lobby. The main cause of global warming is coal burning. Coal was 29% of primary energy last year, its largest share since 1970.  The enormous power of the coal industry is behind anti shale in the most part. I don’t know who funds the  website (and I am not saying that there is any coal funding behind it)  but it is amazing that you struggle to find any mention of coal at all! But this is the biggest cause of global warming. Is that not a bit odd?  A bit like a Man Utd fans website not mentioning Wayne Rooney.  Lets leave the coal in the ground.

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  • Mike Higton

    Good comparison - puts the potential into perspective.<br />It is incomprehensible to me that the local bodies and industry are not pressing for exploitation to go ahead as fast as possible - with stringent regulation, of course. There can hardly be a corner of this country better-suited to capitalise on this new resource in terms of infrastructure, major industry presence, skilled

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  • Bob Berke

    'Any gas from Lancashire saves imports from Qatar. So on days when there is no wind, we use Lancashire gas not Qatar LNG. The £200 billion we save goes some way to funding the insulation of all our solid wall homes and then making a transition to wind,  biomethane, Bio-SNG etc."<br /><br />What savings? The 200 billion goes to Cuadrilla instead of Qatar, but Cuadrilla is hardly a charitable company. This may benefit the UK in that the money spent stays at home and provides some multiplier effect by circulating through the economy, but to see that as a savings that can be used to pay for other public benefits is a misreading of how how private capital works.

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  • Taxes and royalties take about 60% or so £120 billion stays at home. Not exactly chopped liver

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  • You mean the whole 200k is profit that can be taxed? So Cuadrilla has no costs to produce the energy?

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  • On the news today....Cuadrilla has permission to start investigating 3 sites in Surrey/Sussex.<br />Clearly they are quietly getting on with things despite all the childish hysteria from some quarters.

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