Reserves of UK shale gas could total up to 1,000 trillion cubic feet according to the latest data from the British Geological Survey. Most of that would be offshore, in the North Sea, and would launch the country into the rarified atmosphere of other natural gas giants like Russia, Qatar, Iran, and the US. According to Reuters:
Although there are still no reliable figures available for the UK, and only around 10-20 percent of total reserves are currently deemed recoverable, experts say that whatever the final recoverable reserve figure is, it is likely to be big enough to make Britain energy self-sufficient.
The head of the unconventional gas division of Royal Dutch Shell plc (NYSE: RDS-A) told Reuters:
We have potentially huge volumes present in the subsurface – the volumes are mind-blowingly big. The figures appear to suggest the shale resources are so large that the question is not how much is out there, but how much can be retrieved – how much can be economically accessed in an environmentally acceptable way.
That’s the good news. The not-so-good-news, according to a subsurface geologist and geophysicist at the British Geological Survey:
For the offshore industry to become viable, you’d need vastly higher energy costs, perhaps as high as $200 (per barrel) or more. But we’re dealing with a finite resource, so it will happen.
The UK just approved hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for onshore shale gas deposits.