Offshore N. Sea oil and gas technology now makes onshore Scottish shale exploration even more feasible

Just 24 hours after an independent energy guru urged Scotland’s First Minister to drop her ‘illogical’ opposition to developing a Scottish shale energy sector (view via link, below) another leading energy academic today highlights that major technological advances in the offshore N. Sea oil and gas sector make onshore exploration ever-more feasible.

Prof. Redfern
Prof. Redfern

Jonathan Redfern, Professor of Petroleum Geoscience at Manchester University – who worked in the North Sea in the late 1970s as a geologist for an oil major  – said: “Everything from hard engineering, to the ability to drill in ultra-deep water, and the ability to drill quicker and more efficiently and safely, has changed.

“Advances in computing power have allowed us to image the subsurface and manipulate data, and combined with new software to visualise and manage data, this has revolutionised the industry. 

“The fundamentals haven’t changed, but these jump step advances in data acquisition and interpretation, and the ability to engineer solutions, has unlocked huge global resources. 

“Fifteen years ago people talked about the impending ‘Peak Oil’ crisis, and that the world was running out of oil. We had 40 years proven oil reserves then in 2000. Now. 15 years later, we have over 50 years of proven supply, probably more if you include unconventionals < such as shale> and no one talks of ‘Peak Oil’ anymore.

“Of course, we have largely found the “easy oil and gas”. The large traps have been drilled in most basins, so it is getting harder to discover big fields. But there are still significant volumes left to find, or to extract more efficiently, to go back in and find ways to economically produce small stranded oil fields or to go deeper and open up new, as yet, unknown plays

“With the advent of drilling technology to fracture the reservoirs (fracking) we can now target both conventional reservoirs that have poor quality (tight reservoirs) and unconventional reservoirs, which are rocks that mainly were the source of the oil, and still contain large volumes of oil within them that hasn’t managed to escape out.

“We can now drill into these rocks, which in many basins cover vast areas, and extract the oil or gas, albeit at lower rates (barrels produced per day).

CGI of deep-well shale drilling. Big Ben is shown, bottom left, to indicate scale.
CGI of deep-well shale drilling. Big Ben is shown, bottom left, to indicate scale.

“Given the size of the resource we can tap into, this has made a significant impact on global resources and has brought the US back to the top table of the world’s leading oil producers.

“There is unconventional <onshore shale> energy to exploit and fields, many fields, to rehabilitate and extract more oil from. Gas is still the energy of the future with many areas relatively untouched.

“There isn’t much easy oil or gas to find and it will require deploying all our best technology and people, but there is a prize to be had.”

Last year, the Scottish Government imposed a ‘temporary’ ban on shale gas exploration. While the British Geographic Survey has highlighted largest swatches of the Central Belt as holding substantial shale gas reserves, without (at least) exploratory drilling, we will never know how much shale energy Scotland has.

The Scottish Government’s second scientific study into the public safety aspects of shale gas exploration (the first one concluded that sufficient health and safety legislation is in place to do so) is due to report in Spring 2017.

See also:

Scottish energy guru tells Sturgeon: “Just like England, we need new Scots nuclear stations and a green-light for shale gas energy”

And also:

3 days after first Dragon-class supertanker is due to arrive in Scotland from USA, the 2016 UK Shale Energy Conference opens in Glasgow on 30 September –


* The UK 2016 SHALE ENERGY conference, Glasgow, 30 Sept


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