Fossil Fuels

Published on September 25th, 2017 | by James Ayre

September 25th, 2017 by

Only around 10% of the UK’s original offshore recoverable oil and gas reserves now remain, according to a new study from the University of Edinburgh. This means that at current rates of extraction, the UK’s reserves will only last another decade or so.

Once the UK’s oil and gas reserves run out, it will become necessary for the countries comprising the UK to import essentially all of the fossil fuels that they use.

While hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has been touted in recent times as a possible solution to the UK’s looming energy crisis, the new analysis argues that fracking will be “barely economically feasible” there owing to a dearth of suitable geology. This reality is especially true of Scotland, according to the new study.

Since someone may otherwise complain about perceived inaccuracies, I should be clearer here and note that the new study estimates remaining oil reserves at around 11% and remaining gas reserves at around 9% — together making for an average of 10%.

The press release provides more: “Scientists from the University of Edinburgh examined the UK’s likely potential for fracking and carried out a fresh analysis of the country’s oil and gas production. Their findings take into account the long-term downward trends of oil and gas field size and lifespan, alongside the break-even costs for fracking.

“They found that the UK has only minimal potential for fracking. Many possible sites are in densely populated areas, have low quality source rocks and complex geological histories. Fracking is likely to be too restricted to become an effective industry, which would require thousands of wells, scientists say.

“Analysis of hydrocarbon reserves shows that discoveries have consistently lagged behind output since the point of peak oil recovery in the late 1990s. The research predicts that both oil and gas reserves will run out within a decade.”

Lead researcher Roy Thompson, a professor at the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, commented: “The UK urgently needs a bold energy transition plan, instead of trusting to dwindling fossil fuel reserves and possible fracking. We must act now and drive the necessary shift to a clean economy with integration between energy systems. There needs to be greater emphasis on renewables, energy storage, and improved insulation and energy efficiencies.”

With the somewhat unstable political situation in the UK looking likely to persist for at least a fair bit longer, it doesn’t seem too likely that these findings will be discussed much politically. And yet, the reality of fossil fuel poverty is fast approaching for the UK — will anything effective be done on the national level before hard impacts begin?

The new study is detailed in a apparently published in The Edinburgh Geologist.

Image by Isaac Newton (some rights reserved)

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About the Author

‘s background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.