Cuadrilla is exploring the Bowland shale rock in Lancashire for natural gas. The gas trapped within this rock is no different to the natural gas which we all use every day in our homes, businesses and communities.
In September 2011, Cuadrilla announced it had discovered 200 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of Gas in Place within the Bowland shale in Lancashire. If even a fraction of this could be extracted at a commercial rate then this could have a positive effect on the UK’s energy mix.
As an untapped energy resource, natural gas from shale has the potential to:
- boost the UK’s gas production, generating tax revenue for the UK
- reduce the UK’s dependency on vulnerable and expensive foreign energy sources
In the last 10 years, the price of gas in the US has dropped to just a third of its original price, due in part to the increase in production of natural gas from shale.
How is natural gas used?
Natural gas has a huge range of uses at home, in industry and increasingly in transport. As technology improves, many more uses for natural gas are being discovered.
- Residential: Gas hobs, dryers and central heating
- Commercial: Heating and cooling offices, schools and hospitals
- Industrial: Preheating metals, glass melting and food processing
- Transport: Buses, lorries, vans and cars
- Power generation: driving turbines to create electricity
“Fundamentally we are very concerned about security of (energy) supply.”
Ofgem Chief Executive Alistair Buchanan, 2nd February 2012, Reuters
The decline in production from the North Sea has seen the UK become a net importer of gas since 2004. This means that we are heavily reliant on gas imported from overseas.
During the first three quarters of 2011, Qatar provided two fifths of the UK’s total gas imports, up from a quarter over the same period in 2010. This makes the UK energy consumer more vulnerable to disruptions in supply from a politically unstable region.
The first three quarters of 2011 saw a 40% increase in liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports over the same period in 2010, making UK energy consumers more exposed to global price volatility and increasing costs.
Burning natural gas instead of other fossil fuels, like coal and oil, emits fewer pollutant emissions. Primarily made up of methane, the main products of combusting natural gas are carbon dioxide and water vapour. Fuels like coal and oil are carbon-heavy, with increased sulphur and nitrogen levels that result in higher emissions than natural gas.
Compared to coal, natural gas produces roughly half of the CO2 when burned, therefore, has a smaller environmental footprint.
Unlike coal and oil, natural gas also contributes less atmospheric pollution, releasing virtually no substances like ash when burnt.
A transition fuel
Because natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel it makes sense to use it, where ever possible, in place of other carbon-heavy fuels.
As the UK moves to low carbon and renewable energy sources, natural gas will be an important transition fuel.
Renewable energy has a vital role in diversifying the UK’s energy mix over the coming years. At present though, we do not have enough renewable energy to replace other forms of supply. Current estimates by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) indicate renewable energy will account for, at best, 15 % of our energy use by 2020.
As an untapped energy resource, natural gas from shale has the potential to boost the UK’s gas production, reduce the UK’s dependency on expensive foreign energy sources and to lower gas prices. In the last 10 years, the price of natural gas in the US has dropped to just a third of its original price, due in part to the increase in the extraction of natural gas from shale. It should also act as a transitional fuel allowing time for Government and industry to develop renewable sources more effectively.
In September 2011 Cuadrilla announced its Gas-in-Place findings. We estimate that there is 200 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural Gas in Place in the Bowland shale.
This estimate was a result of considerable scientific analysis of findings from our exploration work, which included taking samples from the shale rock during drilling and from flow-back analysis after hydraulic fracturing. Our geologists and technicians are experts in their field and have arrived at this estimation following careful analysis of the available data.