Despite support for fracking falling to an all-time low of 17%, the UK government is pushing ahead and overriding the objections of local communities and local authorities. The health risks are well known but UK politicians insist standards will be higher in the UK than they have been in the US where we’ve seen several disasters. See, for example:
‘How 10 Years of Fracking Has Been a Disaster for Our Water, Land and Climate’
However, there is another issue rarely addressed and that is the general unsuitability of the UK’s geology compared to that of parts of the USA. A quite extended and complex piece from Oil and Gas People yesterday is summarised here. The link to the full piece is below.
I think these two extracts sum up the differences:
- The most successful US shale areas, such as the Marcellus, Barnett, Haynesville and Bakken, all lie at depths and temperatures that mean they are ready to expel their oil and gas when fracked. The basins in which these occur are primarily in relatively stable, undeformed areas away from the edges of active tectonic plates, which geologists refer to as “intracratonic” basins. They are characterised by continuous layers of rock with only gentle dips and few fractures or major faults. This all aids subsurface imaging, gas/oil detection and the directional drilling needed for shale exploration.
- A cursory look at the geological map of the UK shows a very different proposition. The whole land mass has been significantly uplifted by a chain of geological events that started some 55m years ago with the upward rise of a plume of magma under Iceland. This helped break the tectonic plate in two, pushing Greenland and North America in one direction and the eastern segment containing the British Isles in the other, forming the Atlantic Ocean in between…. In short, even where a shale source in the UK may have high organic content and thick and favourable mineralogy, the complex structure of the basins will be detrimental to ultimate recovery….As a result, the opportunity has been overhyped and reserve estimates remain unknown.
So, with hesitation, as non-geologist, I think what the report is saying is that the UK’s geology is too fractured, folded and complex for easy access to large economically viable deposits and that the rock itself often does not have a sufficiently high organic content there to be extracted.
Even considering UK basins said to hold large deposits such as in Lancashire and West Lothian, these rock formations were deformed, not for the first time, 290 million years ago making their structures even more complex and fractured. The report concludes that for UK shale oil extraction, it’s 55 million years too late!