Special Digest


Brace Yourself for the Shale Oil Invasion

It is no secret that the British Geological Survey BGS has been working for and with DECC on the next stage of their assessment of the UK’s shale resources, concentrating on the Weald Basin.

Leaks and suggestions by people who consider themselves insiders suggest the new report will be publish before Easter - it is already overdue.

The leaks confirm what we knew already, that the new report will concentrate on shale oil rather than shale gas.

Almost a year ago, when the US Energy Information Administration EIA published a report on overseas Shale Oil and Shale Gas Resources, it was clear that the north of England was targeted for gas, and the south (the Weald and Wessex Basins) for shale - read tight - oil.

Towards the end of last year Toni Harvey, a senior officer in DECC, told the Lords Economic Affairs Committee that their new report on the Weald might skip shale gas entirely and concentrate on shale oil.

So we await next week’s announcement, expecting to find shale gas falling by the wayside.

Does this affect the anti-fracking campaign? Yes and no. Yes in that we have to be more clued-up on tight oil than we have needed to be until now. No in that tight oil is as difficult as gas to extract from shale. This means it still needs the seriously damaging technique of hydraulic fracturing to extract the oil. It still means we will have to counter the prospcet of a multitude of wells to extract oil at a commercially-viable level.

As happened when the BGS provided their shale gas report on the Bowland Basin, we can expect the new figures to be far in excess of those reported by the US EIA. This will undoubtedly give rise to a new hype, a new claim of wealth-beneath-our-feet by the government, the pro-frackers and the rest of the lunatic fringe who believe that a fossil fuel energy strategy is better than no strategy at all.

It will be interesting to see how the government, which clearly sees the north as providing a soft touch compared with the south, tackles this.

In any event we have to be ready to face this challenge. We have to get clued-up on shale oil now. If we aren’t already.

Having flagged this up some months ago, I hope more folk will now sit up and take notice. They'll have to next week.

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