Natascha Engel was recently appointed as Number 10’s ‘Fracking Tsar’. Given her questionable credentials (she lost a safe Labour seat which they had held since 1935 to a Conservative anti-fracker, and then worked for Ineos) this has caused some hilarity.
However, not so much hilarity as her recent comments in the Daily Mail.
The piece tells us (with no apparent sense of irony) thatIt then reports
It is almost beyond belief that Ms Engel has no idea that the idea of burning enough shale gas to meet UK energy needs for 50 years is absolutely incompatible with meeting our carbon reduction targets. Putting this two things in the same sentence is the type of thing that Mark Menzies MP would call “simply bonkers”.
What is even crazier though is her idea that UK shale gas could meet the UK’s energy needs for 50 years.
Let’s just look at this in a bit of detail shall we?
The UK uses 141,175 ktoe of energy a year (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/729317/Energy_Consumption_in_the_UK__ECUK__2018.pdf P6)
This is equivalent to 1,641,865.25 Gwh which is in turn equivalent to 5.39 tcf of natural gas. 50 years of that would be 269 tcf
The central estimate for gas in place is 1329 TCF
(The BGS estimates that the lower limit of the range is 822 tcf and the upper limit is 2281 tcf, but the central estimate for the resource is 1329 tcf.)
Most commentators suggest that extracting 10% of that might be possible. Ms Engle’s wild estimate suggests that we would need to extract 20%.
Even assuming that were possible it would not happen immediately (or in time to avoid the inevitable ramping down of gas usage that has to happen if we are to help to avoid catastrophic climate change impacts). Indeed even to create an industry which achieved that for a single year would take 20 years to ramp up and would decline below that level again the next year. Why? because of the hyperbolic decline curves that apply to productivity in shale gas extraction.
Modelling using a decline curve like this, which is shallower than that proposed by Cuadrilla themselves ( they forecast 50% productivity after about 2.5 years and not about 7 as shown on this industry sourced decline curve) …
… we put the following inputs into a model:
6 bcf EUR per well (The IoD used 3.2 bcf and the actual average in US plays is far below this, but this is what AJ Lucas are claiming in their promotional efforts)
A 30 year productive life for each well
60 wells per pad (Cuadrilla have claimed this as what they could achieve although this is way above what even the rest of the industry are really dreaming of – see: Super-Size Well Pads — Imagine 40 Fracked Wells on One Pad? which shows how pie in the sky this ambition really is.)
18 well pads developed each year between now and 2037 (19 years). That’s 1,080 wells drilled every year – total 20,520. Yes that’s 20,000 wells.
And STILL it would take 20 years before the annual production level was greater than the UK’s current annual energy requirement.
And it would only last for 1 year before the decline curve meant it dropped below that level again.
And that level of production would only generate a total of 126 tcf or satisfy 23 years worth of UK energy demand, not the 50 she is claiming.
To satisfy the 50 years worth of UK energy demand over the next 50 years that she is bleating about would require 38 pads a year, or over 720 in total) to be built with 2,280 wells being drilled each year giving a total of over 43,000 – FORTY THREE THOUSAND – wells in total. And this is if we swallow that “optimistic” projection of 6 bcf a year. If we ran with the numbers used in the Cuadrilla sponsored IoD report you could almost double those numbers again!
Now if Ms Engel thinks the average Daily Mail reader would countenance that kind of level of development across the United Kingdom she may be in for a rude surprise.
Her comments about UK shale gas providing tens of thousands of jobs and saving the NHS are just to risible to merit further comment. Maybe she thinks we’ll believe it will bring about world peace as well?
We honestly can’t wait for this new Tsar to come to discuss her in depth knowledge with people here in the Fylde.
(Just as a reminder the last Fracking Tsar we had foisted on us was Lord Browne of Cuadrilla, but he cut and ran a few years ago).