Shale gas produced in the UK using hydraulic fracturing should be commercially viable if wells can match the typical flow rates achieved at fields in the US, a senior figure at IGas has told Utility Week.

Asked whether shale gas could make a significant contribution to the UK’s energy mix if the geological formations in this country turned out to be as favourable as those being exploited in the states, IGas chief operating officer John Blaymires said: “The short answer is yes”.

“We know there’s shale there. There’s plenty evidence of that. We know that shale contains gas. They key issue is can you flow at rates that can be considered commercial and that’s the question that has to be addressed.”

“There has only been one well tested to date,” he said, “which was the Cuadrilla one near Blackpool in 2011, and the initial results from that looked encouraging.”

He continued: “Our development costs will be higher because one, our supply chain is more expensive, and two, we have much more legislation that does add cost.”

But, Blaymires added: “One of the challenges America had was there was no real infrastructure to get the gas to market. …We have infrastructure we can tap into. We have a market on the doorstep so getting it to market is easier and relatively cheaper.”

He also noted that the gas price here is higher than in the US, although the gap is closing due to liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports into Britain.

Blaymires said it was important to remember “it’s not a binary thing” and that “if [the gas] flows really well in one location it doesn’t necessarily mean it will flow like that everywhere else.”

However, he concluded: “Our costs will be slightly higher, the gas price is down, but we still see that it will be economic to develop it.” 

Last month North Yorkshire Council approved an application by Third Energy to conduct fracking tests at an existing exploratory well near the village of Kirby Misperton. It marked the first time a council has approved an application for fracking since a ban was lifted in 2012.

Speaking to Utility Week, chief executive of the EUA Mike Foster descibed the decision as “massive for the future of shale”.

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