If the UK were to roll out fracking at its shale gas reserves, it could nearly eliminate its net gas imports by the early 2030s, industry group United Kingdom Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG) said in a report on Monday.
The group has revised up its estimates for potential share gas production, after the recent flow test data from UK company Cuadrilla, which resumed fracking in England last year for the first time in seven years.
According to UKOOG, the initial flow test at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road (PNR) site in Lancashire “scaled up for a full-length lateral with all stages effectively hydraulically fractured, allows us to increase our previous estimates of production from each lateral.”
UKOOG has estimated that a national roll-out of 100 pads of 40 laterals (4,000 laterals in total) would lead to the UK’s annual production peaking at almost 1,400 bcf in the early 2030s, which is equivalent to the gas use of 35 million homes, more than the UK total. The country’s net gas imports could be almost eliminated in the early 2030s, improving the balance of payments by around US$10.4 billion (£8 billion) a year, the industry group said.
At present, the UK currently produces enough gas to meet 44 percent of its needs, while it imports 47 percent of its gas via pipelines from Norway and Europe, and another 9 percent in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
As production in the North Sea is expected to decline over the coming years and decades, estimates point to the UK becoming increasingly dependent on natural gas imports.
Fracking in the UK, however, is met with fierce opposition from environmentalists, and the UK has strict tremor limits regulations that require pausing operations in case of micro seismic events of 0.50 on the Richter scale or higher.
Cuadrilla said last month that initial flow tests at its fracking site in northwest England showed a rich reservoir with high-quality recoverable natural gas, while it also called for the rules on tremor limits to be eased so proper appraisals could be made. The company has had to stop operations multiple times, due to micro seismic events measuring above the threshold requiring a halt.
Last month, the UK government refused to allow Cuadrilla to frack at a second site in Lancashire, Roseacre Wood, citing an “unacceptable impact” and risk to the safety of people using the public highway.
“We are naturally disappointed about the decision on Roseacre Wood,” Cuadrilla said, commenting on the refusal, and noted that it was focused on its first site at Preston New Road.
Commenting on today’s UKOOG report, Cuadrilla’s CEO Francis Egan said:
“We should not underestimate what is at stake here for the UK. Securing our domestic gas supply is only one part of this equation,” adding that “It is now imperative that people understand that they have nothing to fear from fracking and actually a huge amount to gain.”