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James Stafford

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How to Play the UK Fracking Game

Since it lifted the moratorium in December, the United Kingdom has taken its new fracking “freedom” to the limit, granting more than 300 licenses to explorers to frack onshore. And next year we’re looking at another round of licensing—the country’s 14th round onshore.

The Potential

The last week of April saw the UK’s Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change release the findings of a 2-year investigation into the country’s shale gas potential. The verdict is that the potential is very high, but extraction will be more expensive than in the US due to differences in geology, the need for carbon capture and storage infrastructure, and public dissent.

Before the end of this month, the British Geological Survey (BGS) should release its findings on the country’s shale gas reserves—and that’s what we’re really waiting for.
This is what we expect the findings to reveal: Between 1,300 trillion and 1,700 trillion cubic feet of shale gas. That would represent a massive increase over previous estimates of about 5.3 trillion cubic feet.

For now, all we’ve got to go in is the last survey, from 2011.

There are two main petroleum systems in the UK onshore - a wholly Mesozoic petroleum system in southern England, and a northern England petroleum system involving long-lived generation from mid- to late Carboniferous source rocks and migration into reservoirs of Carboniferous…

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