There is a considerable amount of debate over UK shale gas resources (the total amount of shale gas that exists in the ground) and UK shale reserves – the total amount that can be technically or economically extracted.
In June 2013, the British Geological Survey produced a report for the Government where they said that the UK’s shale gas resources could be very large indeed - 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas in the north of England alone and 80 trillion cubic feet in Scotland.1
However, no one is sure exactly how large the UK’s total reserves of shale gas are, i.e. how much can be extracted in practice. This is why operators are carrying out exploration work to find out.
Although there are different views on the size of reserves, those companies who have said they want to explore for shale gas are convinced it would be economically viable. It is widely agreed that shale gas production can help to reduce the UK’s dependence on imports, meaning that it will increase our energy security. John Williams, Senior Principal at Poyry (the global consulting and engineering firm) has said that “shale gas can reduce import dependency and therefore make the country less vulnerable to a supply disruption that may result from a market failure, infrastructure breakdown or other issue affecting imports of gas.” This means that shale gas has the potential to greatly improve the UK’s energy security.2
Dr James Verdon of Bristol University said: “Geologists usually assume 10% of the stated shale reserve is extractable. If this is the case, and we are able to extract 10% of the BGS’s estimate of 1,300tcf, this places the Bowland shale up there among the top 10 largest gas fields in the world.”