The report states the resource estimate of the upper unit as a P50 (50% probability) of 264 Tcf (7.5 Tcm) and, for the lower unit, a P50 of 1,065 Tcf (30.2 Tcm) total gas in place (GIP). Because of the uncertainties, in particular for the higher risk and poorly defined deeper unit, there is a wide range in the estimate, with the P90-P50-P10 for the whole of the Bowland-Hodder unit stated as 822-1329-2281Tcf (23.3-37.6-64.6 Tcm).
The report notes that this GIP estimate is very large when compared with the Ultimate Recovery (UR) of the total offshore UK gas, which currently has a P50 of about 100 Tcf. The Bowland-Hodder play is much more complex than US analogues as it is broken up over several basins and troughs and has experienced significant tectonic activity. Because of the geological uncertainties, lack of knowledge about producibility and the significant social and environmental concerns in the UK of shale gas production, the report has not attempted to state an estimate of recoverable volumes.
The DECC report contains a comprehensive description of the methodology used to arrive at the estimates. Data and figures are reproduced here under the Open Government Licence V2.0.
The fracking ban has now been lifted provided operators can demonstrate that they have the proper controls and seismic monitoring in place. The UK government also announced, coincident with the DECC report, incentives for communities near boreholes where fracking takes place. Cuadrilla with partners Centrica have now announced plans to restart their evaluation of the Bowland-Hodder play.
DECC and the BGS are now evaluating the shale gas and oil shale potential of the Jurassic Weald Basin along the south coast of England. There has not been an onshore hydrocarbon licence round in the UK since 2008, but the 14th round is now expected in 2014. The DECC website also contains many documents about the environmental and legislative framework that will apply to shale gas exploration and production.
Press reports have appeared that imply that shale gas could provide enough gas for the UK for the next 40 years. But clearly it is too early to make such estimates – very little is known of the play and there are many technical and social challenges ahead.