Friday, 16 August 2019
Pivotal research by the University of Nottingham’s Faculty of Engineering and the British Geological Survey (BGS) has determined the capacity of UK shale resources is potentially lower than previously thought.
The previous estimate from 20131 suggests that UK shale could potentially provide up to 50 years’ worth of current gas demand. However, the new research has found that there is significantly lower available resource, corresponding to less than 10 years’ supply at current demand.
We have made great strides in developing a laboratory test procedure to determine shale gas potential. This can only serve to improve people’s understanding and Government decisions around the future of what role shale gas can make to the UK energy’s demand as we move to being carbon neutral by 2050.
This study by Whitelaw et al., which was a PhDfellowship and involves BGS staff working with academic and industrial partners, further enhances our understanding of the shale gas potential of UK onshore basins. These data are of value for companies in helping them optimise their shale gas extraction technology and exploration. It is to be expected that shale gas resource will vary across sedimentary basins depending on rock-composition, organic carbon contents and fracture and faulting patterns.
This cutting edge science shows that shales within the Bowland Formation could potentially contain less recoverable gas than previously thought, confirming that the UK’s geology needs to be carefully managed and demonstrating the strategic value of UK core and accompanying organic geochemical information.
With no published production data for the UK or detailed characterisation of the Bowland shale, the initial 2013 estimates were based on a desk top study, using data from USA shales, estimating the shale gas resource as opposed to the actual reserve. This meant key differences in the composition of the shales in the UK compared to the USA could not be taken into account at the time. The new estimates are derived from actual UK shales, using gas generation absorption data, which is further supported by field data.
The study “Shale gas reserve evaluation by laboratory pyrolysis and gas holding capacity consistent with field data” has been published in one of the most highly regarded scientific journals, Nature Communications.
The development of this technique stems from a research project that began more than 10 years ago at the University of Nottingham, and the application of the technique in shale gas resource evaluation started 5 years ago in a study by the University of Nottingham and BGS into shale gas generation at the Centre for Environmental Geochemistry. This led to the development of a new high pressure water technique that simulates oil and gas generation in shale gas reservoirs. The facilities and expertise at the University of Nottingham and Centre for Environmental Geochemistry at BGS allowed the technique to be developed further and applied to shale gas over a three year research fellowship alongside and a four year PhD study funded by BGS which culminated in the discovery of being able to measure and estimate shale resource.
- Andrews, I. J. The Carboniferous Bowland Shale: Geology and resource estimate (British Geological Survey for DECC, London, 2013).
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About the University of Nottingham
Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.
Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.
The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
The university is a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally - and our graduates are the second most targeted by the UK's top employers, according to The Graduate Market in 2022 report by High Fliers Research.
We lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, a pioneering collaboration between the city’s two world-class institutions to improve levels of prosperity, opportunity, sustainability, health and wellbeing for residents in the city and region we are proud to call home.