Onshore Scottish shale gas in the Central Belt bigger than offshore N. Sea gas reserves


BGS Scottish shale gas and oil field map: Shale oil-bearing areas are bordered in blue, while shale gas are highlighted in red.
BGS Scottish shale gas and oil field map: Shale oil-bearing areas are bordered in blue, while shale gas are highlighted in red.

Scotland’s central belt, running between Glasgow and Edinburgh, may have 6 billion barrels of oil in place, according to an independent report by the British Geological Survey.

While only a fraction of the resource will end up being viable, the deposits could supplement the U.K.’s 3 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, held mostly in North Sea fields off Scotland.

And the survey has been welcomed by the UK Onshore Operators Group. Ken Cronin, Chief Executive, said: “This report will give reassurance to investors who wish to explore for oil and gas onshore in in the Central Belt.

“These resources can help replace the U.K.’s growing dependency on imports and balance the decline of the North Sea.”

As well as oil, Scotland’s central belt has shale gas in place of 80.3 trillion cubic feet, according to the middle estimate of the BGS report. In comparison, there is some 1,300 trillion cubic feet in the Bowland shale basin in northwest England according to research published last year by the British Geological Survey.

Though the Scottish shale gas figure is a fraction of the Bowland basin, it’s enough to prevent the country from becoming a gas importer in 7 to 8 years, according to an explorer with a licence in Scotland’s central belt.

Graham Dean, director of Reach Coal Seam Ltd., said: “80 tcf is a lot. Even if only 10% is developed, there is more producible gas onshore than offshore Scotland – where North Sea gas reserves amount to 4.3 trillion cubic feet.

Exploiting the UK’s shale resources has been opposed by environmental campaigners concerned that drilling techniques, including hydraulic fracturing, risk polluting water supplies. Britain’s greater population density will likely make production more difficult than in the U.S., where a shale boom has reversed declining oil and gas output.

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