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.
The British Geological Survey (BGS) has conducted reviews of the UK’s shale resources, and found abundant shales at depth, although their distribution is not well known’, meaning there is a big difference between the amount of shale gas that exists and the amount that can be used.1
In its 2013 report into the Bowland-Hodder basin under the central UK, the BGS estimated that there is between 822 trillion cubic feet and 2,281 trillion cubic feet in the area. This compares with annual UK gas consumption of around 3 trillion cubic feet. However, the BGS does not estimate how much of this gas could be recoverable. The Bowland-Hodder basin stretches across north and east England.
According to an MIT study, recovery rates for shale gas are “typically of the order of 15% to 30%”2.
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.
Professor Ernest Rutter of the University of Manchester said: “In addition to this information, you may also be interested to know that a volume of gas is cited at a particular, standardized pressure and temperature, in this case at room pressure and temperature. Estimating volume of recoverable gas from the known volume of shale is little more than a guess. This is why drilling and testing of exploration wells is required to determine how much gas might actually be extracted.”