Articles from 2013
Where's the Great Oil Gala?
- Written by Nick Grealy
- Published: 28 October 2013
The House of Lords Select Committee inquiry “The Economic Impact on UK Energy Policy of Shale Gas and Oil” has had some interesting evidence that hasn’t appeared anywhere else, possibly because reporters would have to read the evidence rather than recycle press releases.
The environmental day on October 22 showed the gulf between UK greens and those on the rest of the planet on policy, but the evidence from Mike Stevenson and Toni Harvey of DECC from October 15 was very interesting on several fronts. Mike and Toni did a great job explaining geology to the noble Lords that would be understandable to most commoners.
As scientists and civil servants, they don’t have an axe to grind and are thus the soul of neutrality and caution. This from Mike Stephenson on the question of whether or not UK shales are different, or not, from US shale is informative:
Previously on page 6:Answering your American question, an example of the shales in the United States that have been very successful is the Barnett Shale in Texas. That is of pretty much the same age as the lower carboniferous shales that we are interested in in the north of England. It was deposited over much wider areas and ours were deposited in much narrower, deeper basins but most geologists do not see a huge difference between American shales of that age and ours. Apart from the fact that the shales seem to be thicker here, I do not think there is an awful lot of difference. In answer to your question, “Do you think that our geology here means that we can build up an industry like they can in the United States?”, I do not think it is a question of geology but that we are different countries, with different views about the countryside and different population densities. That is a much stronger influence in my opinion.
On page 11 this snippet is interesting. Let's remember US shales are often no greater than 100 meters thick, but in the UK where greens insist on telling us shale is an illusion "there are four or five places where the shale gets to quite extraordinary thicknesses of 5 kilometres"
The most interesting question and response is on page 14:
Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach: The report that you held up then is about shale gas. It is not about tight oil. Could tight oil also be a substantial addition to the UK’s shale resource?
Toni Harvey: When DECC commissioned the report, we were focused on shale gas. It came somewhat as a surprise to us, because we thought that Bowland shale was going to be very deeply buried and entirely in the gas window, but there actually is some Bowland shale in the oil window, which is less deeply buried. Because most of it was in the gas window and we had not scoped out the report to do an oil estimate, we stopped at gas. DECC has now commissioned the BGS to do a report on the Weald basin in southern England, because that basin has not been buried as deeply and is likely to be mostly liquids. In that case, we will probably come out with a shale oil estimate, and we might not go to the effort of doing a shale gas estimate.
On the subject of the Bowland, IHS recently said at a London conference that they saw 4 billion (yes with a b) barrels of recoverable oil in the Bowland. That could replace the 500 thousands barrels a day of oil we currently import, for 21 years.
The Weald is where it becomes interesting. Let’s remember, Balcombe celebrated, or suffered depending on your point of view, a summer long Great Gas Gala. The question arises, for what purpose? DECC seems to think that in this case, gas is too tight to mention. There isn’t any there.
It seems it was all a misunderstanding, arising from a press that often simply repeated whatever completely misinformed demonstrators told them. Given the rather basic question of gas and oil, how much of the other allegations about shale are to be believed? To Balcombe residents, the point may seem beside the point, they still feel they will end up looking like this, or is this misinformation too? From Conservatives against Fracking
This is no surprise to long term readers here, and I stressed it’s oil, not gas from my first report in January 2012 and Cuadrilla always said they were seeking oil.
But gas sounds scary thanks to the US gas experience, and gas is the threat to the renewable movement. Leave all fossil fuels in the ground has at least some sense if you are senseless enough to believe all we need to do is to think very hard and we can generate all electricity with sun and wind. Even if No Dash for Gas arguments are unrealistic, they are founded in at least some sort of reality. But a Great Oil Gala and No Dash for Oil just doesn’t have that ring to it. The press may well have laughed that one off.
Ironically, the greatest threat to oil is the substitution of it with natural gas vehicles, but even if that was successful, oil is something most people use every single day and will continue to do so for years to come. Oil is not going to go simply go away in car fuel. On top of that, substituting oil imports is attractive to most anyone on energy security and cost grounds. There are no movements even at the extreme fringes, to leave North Sea oil in the ground, and the economic advantages of using our own oil instead of others’ are far clearer to the mass audience.
The notion that gas (the lower carbon fuel) is worse than oil, signifies the overall confusion prevalent among green opponents of oil and their media stenographers. It’s a pretty basic place to start the debate in southern Britain.
More from China this week BTW