Fracking in the UK was doomed a decade ago – Tories have wasted precious time on a fossil fuel fantasy

12th November 2019 | Commercial Energy

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in the possession of a good fortune may well have worked in the US shale gas industry. In 2018 alone, about 21 trillion cubic feet of natural gas was produced, with commercial buyers paying around US$8 per thousand cubic feet. Given how profitable the US industry has been, it’s no surprise that governments and businesses in Europe were interested. In Poland, shale was seen as an opportunity to reduce or even eliminate dependence on Russian gas and to export gas to the rest of Europe. For the UK, it was hoped that shale could offset declining production from the North Sea and the growth of expensive gas imports.

Natural gas an oil can be found in underground reservoirs between the rock grains. These conventional sources can be reached by drilling into such reservoirs, but unconventional natural gas is trickier to get as it’s trapped between much finer-grained shale rock formations. To release oil or gas trapped in shale rocks, a reservoir needs to be artificially created by fracturing the rock and pumping fluid down the well bore until the structure breaks.


The gas or petroleum can then flow out. In other words, a shale gas reservoir isn’t discovered, but created by horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking”.

Research form the independent ReFINE partnership jointly led by Durham and Newcastle Universities has shown that the estimated volume of technically recoverable shale gas in the UK was based upon a miscalculation. The total volume of shale was reasonably clear, though the quantity of gas within it wasn’t, as few samples of the rock were available for lab testing. Recent work on UK shale samples by Colin Snape at Nottingham University has demonstrated very poor gas yields. The gas may be there but it won’t come out. The situation in Poland is much the same.

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