Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

London — Fracking Britain’s shale gas reserves could cut the country’s imports of gas to zero by the early 2030s, an industry group said on Monday.

Britain imports more than half of its gas via pipelines from continental Europe and Norway and through shipments of liquefied natural gas from countries such as Russia, the US and Qatar.

Environmental groups strongly oppose hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which involves extracting gas from rocks by breaking them up with water and chemicals at high pressure.

But the British government, keen to cut the country’s reliance on imports as North Sea gas supplies dry up,  in 2018 gave Cuadrilla permission to frack two wells at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire.

Industry group UK Onshore Oil and Gas on Monday published updated forecasts for the county’s shale gas potential in the wake of recent data from Cuadrilla’s sites.

The forecasts for well productivity were increased by 72% to 5.5- billion cubic feet (bcf) per lateral well, compared with estimates made in 2013 by Britain’s Institute of Directors.

 At least 100 fracking well pad sites, each with 40 lateral wells could produce almost 1,400 bcf a year by the early 2030s, equivalent to the gas use of 35-million homes, the industry association report said. This would be more than the country needs as it has about 27-million households.

But fracking companies say the industry is unlikely to take off in Britain under current regulations, which halt fracking activity if a seismic event of magnitude 0.5 or above is detected.

Cuadrilla, the only company to have fracked for gas in Britain, had to halt operations several times in 2018 due to seismic events which exceeded the limit.

British chemical manufacturer Ineos, which has the largest shale gas licence acreage in Britain, has called the current rules unworkable.

The government said it has no plans to review the regulations.

A 2017 study by the department for business, energy and industrial strategy concluded that through imports Britain would have secure supplies of gas up until 2037 even if no shale reserves were exploited.

Environmentalists have opposed the development of a UK shale gas industry, and say the exploitation of more fossil fuels is at odds with the country's climate targets.

Britain has a target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 compared with 1990 levels and is examining whether a net zero emissions target date should be set.