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UK shale gas developers eager to resume work after fracking ban lifted

Highlights

Move sets foundation for gas self-sufficiency: Cuadrilla

Ineos renews offer to drill test shale gas well in UK

Egdon pledges to deliver shale gas in 'timely fashion'

A number of UK shale gas developers pledged Sept. 8 to resume work quickly at their onshore sites following the UK government's move to lift the moratorium on fracking.

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The government said Sept. 8 it would lift the moratorium as part of a new domestic energy security push, adding that first gas flows were possible within six months.

The new UK government under Prime Minister Liz Truss sees shale gas as a key tool for improving energy security and making the most of the UK's domestic resources against the backdrop of record high international gas prices.

Platts assessed the UK NBP month-ahead gas price at an all-time high of 598 p/th ($70.44/MMBtu) Aug. 26, according to S&P Global Commodity Insights data. It was last assessed Sept. 7 at 410 p/th, still 210% higher year on year.

Cuadrilla Resources -- which holds a number of shale gas development licenses in the UK -- said maximizing domestic energy supply was "vital" to overcoming the energy crisis and reducing the risk of it recurring in the future.

"Today's announcement sets the foundation for us to move towards gas self-sufficiency, and not be reliant on the whims of dictators, or the vagaries of international supply lines and prices," Cuadrilla CEO Francis Egan said.

"Without the strong measures set out today, the UK was set to import over two thirds of its gas by the end of the decade, exposing the British public and businesses to further risk of supply shortage and price hikes down the line," Egan said.

He said Cuadrilla looked forward to working with the government "to ensure this industry can start generating results as soon as possible."

In April, Egan said material shale gas flows in the UK could be achieved within three to four years, which over time could help bring down gas prices.

Ineos offer

Chemicals giant Ineos, meanwhile, said it was renewing its offer to drill a shale gas test well in the UK.

Founder and CEO Jim Ratcliffe in April appealed to the government to allow it to drill a well following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"We are renewing our offer to the government to drill a shale gas test well in the UK. We believe we can prove we can do it safely and without harm to the environment," Ineos Director Tom Crotty said Sept. 8.

Crotty said gas must be part of the energy transition in the UK. "The country needs gas for at least the next 30 years. It is patently obvious that we should be using our own gas instead of shipping it in from abroad," he said.

Another shale gas developer IGas -- which claims to have a "world-class" shale gas resource at the Gainsborough Trough in eastern England -- said development of its assets could contribute to UK energy security in the near term.

It would also help to decouple the UK from "volatile and competitive international gas markets," IGas said.

"The accelerated development of this strategic natural resource, which we believe is imperative in helping with the ongoing energy and cost-of-living crisis, can only be achieved through a streamlined regulatory process, something the government has committed to today," it said.

"To this end, we look forward to working constructively with the new administration."

Mark Abbott, managing director of Egdon Resources, said the lifting of the fracking moratorium was a "logical and pragmatic" response to the new geopolitical reality.

"With Egdon's material shale-gas position, we now look forward to working positively with government and local communities to deliver this nationally important resource in a timely fashion," Abbott said.

Estimated resource

The UK put in place a moratorium on fracking in England in November 2019 after an analysis of the environmental impact of work at Cuadrilla's site at Preston New Road.

Cuadrilla was forced to suspend work at the site after a magnitude 2.9 tremor occurred in August 2019.

It is estimated that the northern Bowland Shale gas formation in England alone holds as much as 37.6 Tcm of shale gas. Just 10% of that volume could meet UK gas needs for 50 years, according to Cuadrilla.

However, several academic studies have suggested the true resource is much lower.

In 2019, research from Nottingham University said resources within the Bowland Shale formation could be up to five times lower than previous estimates suggested.

The research, supported by the BGS, said economically recoverable reserves of Bowland shale gas could be less than 10 years of current UK gas consumption -- implying a ceiling of around 800 Bcm.