Fracking in UK is not commercially viable, claims new research


The UK’s geology is not suitable and economically unviable for fracking, according to new research conducted at Heriot-Watt University.

The research, conducted under the leadership of Heriot-Watt University chief scientist professor John Underhill, has remarked that the UK's fracking technique is 55 million years too late.

It is claimed that seismic activity around 55 million years ago caused areas containing shale reserves to be highly deformed by folds and faults, resulting in the reduction of chances of commercially extracting oil and gas.

Underhill said: “The inherent complexity of the sedimentary basins has not been fully appreciated or articulated and, as a result, the opportunity has been overhyped.”

Part of the UK population has been opposing fracking in the country, which has seen huge investments of late in order to explore oil and gas opportunities in shale plays.

Underhill added: “There is a need to factor this considerable and fundamental geological uncertainty into the economic equation.

“It would be extremely unwise to rely on shale gas to ride to the rescue of the UK's gas needs only to discover that we’re 55 million years too late.”

"There is a need to factor this considerable and fundamental geological uncertainty into the economic equation."

According to the research findings, three potential fracking sites, including the Weald Basin in southern England, the Bowland Shale in Lancashire and the West Lothian Oil Shale in Scotland, were found to have undergone deformation.

Underhill further noted that the Weald Basin, which was a major area of sedimentary deposits in the Cretaceous, was deformed into an anticlinal arch-type fold defined by the steeply dipping chalk ridges that form the North and South Downs in south-east England.

Meanwhile, the Bowland Shale and the West Lothian Oil Shale had undergone an additional period of deformation approximately 290 million years ago that compounded their structural complexity.

Fracking company Cuadrilla recently commenced a drilling campaign at the Preston New Road site in Little Plumpton, Lancashire, to determine suitable locations for shale gas extraction.


Image: According to the study, the fracking success found in the US cannot be replicated in the UK. Photo: courtesy of Heriot-Watt University.