The Future of English Shale

Corin Taylor

Monica Thomas speaks to Corin Taylor, Director of UK Onshore Oil & Gas (UKOOG)

Q: Are you optimistic about shale gas exploration and production in the UK?
Yes, I am, we have an enormous resource in the ground. The British Geological Survey has estimated that there is 1300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas in the north of England. The UK uses just under 3 trillion cubic feet of gas a year. This means that even if we got a very small proportion of it out – say 5 or 10 percent – it would still be equal to several decades of UK consumption.
The UK is very dependent on gas for heating, with 84 percent of our homes heated by gas, and we are becoming more dependent on imported gas. Just 15 years ago we were net exporters, but now we import about half of our gas and that’s expected to go up to about three quarters by 2030. So there’s clearly going to be a need for gas and a need for more UK sources of gas.

Q: The example of Poland shows that the excitement around shale gas can fizzle out very quickly if results don’t come fast enough. In your opinion, are there any steps the UK should take to avoid following the Polish scenario?
We need to make sure that we plan operations very carefully. I know companies will have been carrying out a lot of seismic acquisition to pick the best geological locations for those early exploration sites, I think that’s quite an important lesson. But ultimately it will come down to whether or not we can get enough gas out of those exploration wells.
We need to go through that appraisal before we can be more certain that we have a reserve as opposed to just a resource.

Q: In Poland a lot of majors came in and then swiftly pulled out because there was no quick return. So do you think it is important that UK operators are in it for the long haul and are prepared for any hurdles they might encounter?
That’s a good point. This isn’t a short term industry – we are trying to establish a resource that we can produce for a number of decades, so I think companies do need to have a long term view.
It does take time to get planning approval and to communicate with communities. In the UK, the industry will need to continue to do a lot more of that in order to win local people’s trust and demonstrate that we can carry out operations very safely and effectively. That can’t be done overnight.

Magazine Issue 4 Cover
The full interview, by Monica Thomas, is available in Issue 4 of Shale Gas International Magazine and can be found on page 29.

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