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back to article Frack me! UK shale gas bonanza 'bigger than North Sea oil'

The government has given the go-ahead for further exploration of the UK's shale gas reserves. Independent surveys suggest these reserves may yield more energy for the nation than North Sea oil. The shale gas will be collected using induced hydraulic fracturing, known as "fracking", which splits rocks thousands of feet below …

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Bah

Don't worry ecoloonies the UK Gov and the EU have ensured that through carbon taxes we'll all continue to pay over the odds for gas and the population can continue to shiver and starve in the name of Gaia.

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"Continue to shiver and starve"?

Where do you live mate? Iran?

No shivery starvation here.

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Anonymous Coward

ground water

Be sure to have all ground water in any area suggested for fracking tested for all possible elements before testing. Here in NA as ground water has become contaminated the fracking companies like to see proof that the ground water didn't have these issues before they started their work. I don't know what the rules are in the UK/EU but here they don't have to reveal the chemicals they use, industrial secret. Governments here, at all levels, are making it hard for citizens to get compensation as their ground water is poisoned.

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Get it right next time

Putting aside the possibility that fracking will cause massive earth tremors that will destroy all our homes, infrastructure and civilisation, and focussing on the positives for a second.

One of the side-effects of all the North Sea oil and gas was that the UK basically held a party for itself, with several years of lowered taxes to win elections coupled with lots of spending of the oil revenues on popular programmes. All this was essentially "free" to the taxpayer as the oil companies paid huge amounts for the privilege of sucking oil and gas out of the sea bed.

Now this time it would be nice, assuming the windfall is repeated, if some of those revenues were INVESTED in our future, instead. So how about spending the money on improving transport, making teaching attractive to the talented (instead of just the enthusiastic), becoming a world leader in something other than complaining about the weather and maybe, just maybe building up our manufacturing base, so that this "bonanza" leaves something tangible as it's legacy - apart from millions of falling-down houses.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Get it right next time

Not helped by the fact the EU handed Norway a large portion of our gas and oil fields, years ago!

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Devil

Re: Get it right next time

Long-term benevolent thinking from self-interested and partisan short-term politicians?

What new madness is this?

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Re: Get it right next time

Putting aside the possibility that fracking will cause massive earth tremors that will destroy all our homes, infrastructure and civilisation

Hysterical much?

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Meh

Re: Get it right next time

Hysteria or sarcasm?

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Re: Get it right next time

Putting aside the possibility that fracking will cause massive earth tremors that will destroy all our homes, infrastructure and civilisation

Hysterical much? Satirical mucher.

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Re: Get it right next time

Spot on! Also, just because there's 15 years of reserves (and possibly up to 60), doesn't mean it makes sense to over-develop, and hoover it all up and burn it as quickly as possible to get teh maximum immediate profit. It makes much more sense to invest in enough plant to get a steady stream* that can be usefully used for 50-100 years. Otherwise you'll be spending billions on industrial machinery that will only be used for 20-30 years and then become useless, AND extracting as much as possible as quickly as possible will drive prices down.

Also, makes sesne to re-invest some of teh bonanza into renewable energy for when the bonanza is over.

*in this respect it's probably better to have a very low safety threshold to start with. Once there's a few year's experience of how things are working, they can push the limit up. If you start with a higher limit, good luck with ever wanting to get that limit down.

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Joke

Re: Get it right next time @ Pete 2

I'm going to have to stop reading the El Reg comments.

There are just far too many sensible suggestions coming out - I don't think I can take it anymore. I simply didn't expect this from what is, essentially, a geek site.

I want more comments about how Apple are saying they have a patent on Fracking as they've been doing it to their customers for years.

I want comments about how people would love to Frack Paris.

I want comments about how how Lewis will spin this into his Climate change articles and say it will lower temperatures

Gonna have to lie down now.

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Re: Get it right next time

Hysterical much? Satirical mucher.

Twice in two days; if you're going to do satire, don't do crap satire.

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Re: Get it right next time

At the moment, no-one actually knows what the reserves are. We know from the currently explored areas that there's up to 60 years of exploitable (current tech, current cost) shale. When exploration is complete, there may be two or three times that available to us.

I'm old enough to remember all the hype that surrounded North Sea Oil and how it was going to transform our lives. I'm still waiting. Truth is that most of the money was pissed away by successive governments. So I'm not holding my breath and expecting things to be different this time.

If we spend billions on machinery that's only used for 30 years, that'll be reflected in the price of the gas and mean that it'll either be economic or not, it won't just be extracted for the sake of it.

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Re: Get it right next time

"If we spend billions on machinery that's only used for 30 years"

Most M&E plant has a maximum asset life of 25 years, often considerably less, so I don't think you need worry too much about that.

But the idea of spending some hoped for shale gas windfall on "investments in infrastructure" ignores the unfortunate reality that the money has already been spent on crap by this and the last government. Before the enthusiasts start planning how to spend the next bonus, they may care to consider the slight problemette that we have a national debt of £1.1 trillion quid, and that is currently increasing by around £14 million pounds an hour. So much for all the pathetic whining about austerity.

http://www.debtbombshell.com/

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Paris Hilton

Re: Get it right next time @ Pete 2

Apple have a patent on Lewis spinning everything into an argument against climate change.

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Re: Get it right next time@James MiCallef

just because there's 15 years of reserves (and possibly up to 60), doesn't mean it makes sense to over-develop, and hoover it all up and burn it as quickly as possible to get teh maximum immediate profit.

This is the Bowland shales we're talking about. There's other shale gas reserves in the UK, but it would seem likely that there's probably plenty of shale gas under the North Sea that has previously been ignored because it wasn't economic to extract. Offshore shale gas is (AFAIK) not commercially exploited anywhere at the moment, but neither was onshore shale gas a few short years back.

And if we really want energy, there's plenty of cheap coal. Best to import that, but if need be we have about 3 giga tonnes of UK coal reserves, with probably three to four times that under the North Sea. As with offshore shale gas price and technology mitigate against using it now, but that might not alway be the case.

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Reserves

Definition of reserves is the amount of stuff that we know about and know how to get out of the ground. It does not include all the stuff that we don't know about though we might expect there to be some, nor stuff that we can't extract. So reserves can grow as more fields are found or as technology means that more can be extracted. In fact reserves have grown because of fracking in the oil industry which allowed more oil to be extracted from what looked to be dry wells.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Get it right next time

"Truth is that most of the money was pissed away by successive governments. So I'm not holding my breath and expecting things to be different this time."

Ditto that! But what's the odds on a fair portion of that revenue being wasted on those wind turbines that Brussels tell us we must build? You know those over costly ones that focus on a wholly unreliable energy source, demonstrate severe storage issues and require a similarly expensive 90-100 % backup.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Get it right next time

North Sea Oil was very good quality so we sold it for top dollar and then bought the cheap shit to make our petrol out of.

I believe that, combined with selling off state industries allowed the Tories to keep taxes low in the 80s.

But now there's nothing much to sell off and not much oil, so we're stuffed.

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Re: Get it right next time

"....coupled with lots of spending of the oil revenues on popular programmes."

I never realised that funding >3m unemployed was a popular programme.

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Holmes

Re: Get it right next time

it was amongst the 3m + unemployed.

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Re: Get it right next time

This sounds much like what norway did with their oil

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/99680a04-92a0-11de-b63b-00144feabdc0.html

Still, I doubt we could actually be sensible - when there are fatcats that need feeding.

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Re: Get it right next time

How do you make teaching attractive to the talented? Those who are talented in a particular field want to get on with exploring it and pushing boundaries, because they can. Would money really be enough to compensate people of that mindset for the dying inside that they would experience, regurgitating the same old shit, year in year out?

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Re: Reserves@The Axe

"Definition of reserves is ..."

You are correct, but I wasn't trying to use oil industry approved terminology, merely everyday English. A few years back you wouldn't have counted shale gas as reserves - didn't mean that it wasn't there, and to likewise dismiss other reserves that currently aren't economic or technically feasible doesn't mean that we should overlook them.

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FAIL

Re: Get it right next time

Nope, this time Govt will once again dump the tax windfall onto popular programmes.

So wah-hay, The extra cash washing around UK PLC means we can then have another property booooooom!

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Re: Get it right next time

> Hysterical much? Satirical mucher.

Because the water table is irrelevant, right?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U01EK76Sy4A

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Re: Get it right next time @ Pete 2

Chris, I salute you :)

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Re: Reserves@The Axe @ Ledswinger

I understand your point that these shale gas and undersea coal deposits should be considered for our future energy needs but they're not reserves. It's not 'oil industry approved terminology', they're just simply not reserves even in standard English. By your definition Titan is a natural gas reserve because it may possibly one day be economic and technically feasible to collect methane there.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Get it right next time

"> Hysterical much? Satirical mucher.

Because the water table is irrelevant, right?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U01EK76Sy4A"

The water table isn't irrelevant but those burning tap water videos are bollocks. The methane is coming from a biological source not from fracking. It was possible to do this before the fracking even started. I'm sure you won't let the facts get in the way of your FUD though...

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Here's a mad, crazy idea.

How about the government use the 15 years worth of breathing space - and some of the revenues - that fracking offers to develop and build a sensible and effective renewables infrastructure, so that the lights won't once again go out when another of our limited resources is all used up?

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Re: Here's a mad, crazy idea.

Because even with all the money they could tax from shale it won't be enough to stop the sun from dipping below the horizon every evening or the wind to sometimes not blow anywhere in the UK (like yesterday).

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Re: Here's a mad, crazy idea.

But nor would all that money let you have limitless gas. It's a good stopgap till we find something sustainable, renewable or not.

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Re: Here's a mad, crazy idea.

It isn't raining and yet there's still water coming out of my tap.

It's almost as if the word "infrastructure" implies something that maintains a supply even when the raw source isn't currently and directly available.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Here's a mad, crazy idea.

There are two types of energy production, controllable and uncontrollable.

Wind power, hydro power, solar power are uncontrollable. You don't know the weather and in the winter the solar power isn't much use.

Coal, gas and nuclear are controllable. You can bring generators online and offline as required and control output.

This basic fact is overlooked when being critical of coal, gas and nuclear. We can't store mains power easily, recent methods have appeared by nothing is 100% efficient.

If we fitted low voltage DC wiring to our homes and used more DC equipment directly then we could charge up reserve batteries when power is available and use the battery as a reserve.

But this is all sounding very Soylent Green, using a bicycle to charge up the lighting.

Renewables can only give us a certain percentage of required power.

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Re: there's still water coming out of my tap

Water is relatively easy to store. There's no good way to store electricity in bulk. The best is probably to pump water up a hill and let it flow down again later, but even that needs a supply of hills that you don't mind ruining with the big reservoir.

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Re: Here's a mad, crazy idea.

Don't be silly! Britons hate infrastructure -- it keeps reminding us that everything does not work by magic and pixies.

The money from fracking will be spunked on tax cuts for the rich, MPs' vanity projects, and suchlike; and when the shale gas runs out (as non-renewables have a nasty habit of doing), we'll be left with a serious environmental mess and another energy shortage on our hands.

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FAIL

Re: Here's a mad, crazy idea.

Renewables can only give us a certain percentage of required power.
The day is going to come, eventually, when renewables will be the only source of energy there is.

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Re: Here's a mad, crazy idea.

What complete and utter bollocks. How much uranium or thorium is there ready to exploit? What really needs to be done is increase the efforts to make fusion power generation work more efficiently and reliably. That will put an end to our concerns for power generation...

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FAIL

Re: Here's a mad, crazy idea.

Really? You're saying that, within our lifetime, we'll use up all the useable supplies of uranium and thorium and still fail to come up with a way to sustainably fuse hydrogen (BTW, "renewables" are actually non-renewable, too, since the Sun is a fusion reactor).

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Some Beggar Posted Friday 14th December 2012 11:49 GMT

read this http://www.templar.co.uk/downloads/Renewable%20Energy%20Limitations.pdf

then weep

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FAIL

Re: Here's a mad, crazy idea.

Not necessarily within our lifetime, but certainly within the lifetime of our descendants.

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WTF?

Re: Some Beggar Posted Friday 14th December 2012 11:49 GMT

@peter_dtm

read this ...

An unpublished blog by somebody I've never heard of who seems inordinately proud of having an ordinary degree? No thanks. I'm sure it's terribly thrilling but I doubt it has any bearing on anything I've written here or anywhere else.

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Mushroom

Re: Here's a mad, crazy idea.

We've got something sustainable. It's just not very popular.

<-- Because it's guilty by association

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A sudden outbreak of common sense?

First the green light to build some nuclear plants and now this? What's happening?

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Unhappy

Re: A sudden outbreak of common sense?

What's happening is that "the lights going out" is now (possibly) an event falling within the next five years and is therefore within the politicians' event horizon for the first time. In particular, Conservative ministers are hoping they will win the next election out-right and are therefore rather concerned at the prospect of the biowaste hitting the windmill half-way through their term of office.

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Re: A sudden outbreak of common sense?

What's happening?

I work for one of the big six energy companies, and we actually invested several hundred million in developing our nuclear options.

What happened was that we found unsurprisingly that nuclear power plants cost five times or more as much as a similar output CCGT, additionally have far more construction risk, plus the long tail of decommissoning costs. The government tried to, but couldn't rig the electricity market sufficiently to come up with the vast subsidies to pay for nuclear, so we, along with most other players pulled out. It already smells like the proposed new Hinkley Point reactor will be deferred (this was the most advanced scheme). And because of botched government intervention to thrust money at crap renewables there's no headroom or cash left to pay for nukes.

By way of comparison, it would cost around about £6b for a 1.5MW reactor. The government have ensured that some £20bn has already been invested in wind, for fuck all benefit, with probably a similar amount to follow in the next seven years. If DECC weren't such arseholes, that £40bn could have bought seven nuke plants, and added almost 11 GW of reliable capacity to the generation fleet (current peak capacity for reference, is about 80 GW). As noted, that would have been vastly more expensive than gas CCGT, but at least we'd have somthing to show for it. Instead all we will have to show is a lot of spoiled landscapes, and now we need to build the gas plant anyway.

Not much you can do about this now, other than to campaign for every member of staff at DECC (and every DECC pensioner) to be hurled into the fuel shute of a large coal fired power station.

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Re: A sudden outbreak of common sense?

It's not lack of nuclear subsidies that has kept nuclear back. It's the excessive costs which are all due to huge amounts of regulatory controls all put in place by governments who are scared shitless about a nuclear accident. Nuclear is actually very safe but the high costs makes it uneconomic - until the lights go out because we've decommissioned all the gas plants and put up windmills everywhere.

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Re: A sudden outbreak of common sense?

Yes, but French nuclear plants? Sure, it's an advanced design, even though they have put all their diesel backups in the one location and all below ground (I'd have split the backups into two locations and each of those ranged over two levels, plus had a steam driven water circulation pump just to be sure!)

We could be researching Thorium plants and other designs...

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Re: A sudden outbreak of common sense?

"We could be researching Thorium plants and other designs..."

Fun little fact from the world of weird metals.

Someone, somewhere out there, is willing to purchase thorium from miners. You often get it as a by product of all sorts of mining. And it's a right bugger to get shot of. Because the global market is near spit in size (literally. I once did a $30,000 deal in the metal and that was the sole and single reported transaction in the US that year).

And yet if someone is now willing to purchase material, someone, somewhere, must have a use for it. And those reactor experiments are the only ones that make any sense.

I dunno who it is or how far along their work is but given that someone is now purchasing thorium I'd assume that someone is indeed looking at those reactors.

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Re: A sudden outbreak of common sense?@The Axe

"It's not lack of nuclear subsidies that has kept nuclear back."

Industry AC speaks again: You're wrong with that assertion. There's various factors, but from the industry perspective it really does come down to whether the government will compel the customer to pay sufficient (like more than double current electricity wholesale prices) to the nuclear operator.

Industry needed (ideally) around £140/MWh, government didn't want to go that far and was prepared to concede around £100 (almost double current wholesale price), but that made the projects uneconomic. If you can't get a return on investment that has an entry price for a single reactor of £6bn, and an asset life of fifty years then it doesn't happen, and it didn't. Government's bizarre incompetence in all matters of energy policy didn't help, because that increases the risk, and means you need bigger incentives in order to borrow the money to build the things.

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