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Shale rock professor says UK gas reserves
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Shale rock professor says UK gas reserves ‘hyped’

17/08/17Environment

Geology Professor John Underhill has warned that the gas reserves in shale rocks in the UK have been “hyped”.

Underhill, from Heriot-Watt University, said UK shale deposits were formed 55 million years too late to trap substantial amounts of gas.

He said the government would be wise to formulate an alternative plan to fracking for future gas supplies.

However, the fracking firm Cuadrilla said it would determine how much gas was present from its test drilling.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a technique designed to recover gas and oil from shale, a sedimentary rock found worldwide.

Cuadrilla said estimates from the British Geological Survey (BGS) indicated a large potential gas reserve.

However, Underhill said his research on the influence of tectonic plates on the UK suggested that shale formations had been lifted, warped and cooled by tectonic action.

He said: “The complexity of the shale gas basins hasn’t been fully appreciated so the opportunity has been hyped.”

Underhill’s comments are based on an unpublished paper on tectonics. He said he deduced the impact on shale formations by chance.

He said: “I’m neutral about fracking, so long as it doesn’t cause environmental damage. But the debate is between those who think fracking is dangerous and those who think it will help the economy – and no-one’s paying enough attention to the geology.

“For fracking to work, the shale should be thick enough, sufficiently porous, and have the right mineralogy. The organic matter must have been buried to a sufficient depth and heated to the degree that it produces substantial amounts of gas or oil.”

Pan European Networks Ltd