750 well pads predicted for the Fylde

Cuadrilla yesterday upped the hype level yet again. Speaking at the Shale UK conference in London, winsome (but sometimes extremely grumpy) young Cuadrilla geologist Huw Clarke told the audience that PEDL 165 may contain 330 TCF of gas. That’s a 50% increase on previous estimates, and all that increase was calculated without fracking any extra wells.

However, annoyingly for Cuadrilla, at the same conference Prof Andy Aplin, a former adviser to oil giant BP and now at Durham University, said that exploiting the Bowland shale, based on the example of the US, might require 33,000 wells. We’ve checked his figures and at 10% extraction and the average EUR (Estimated Ultimate Recovery) in the USA, as measured by the US Geological Survey, (1.1 bcf per lateral) that’s about right – but for PEDL 165 – not the entire Bowland Shale.

As the BBC reported

The issue of the number of wells was also commented on by Lord Oxburgh, former chairman of Shell and a member of the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology.

The experience in the US suggests that the output of shale gas or oil from fracked wells declines very quickly, increasing the need to drill new wells.

“The rate of flow drops by 85% over three years, a conventional well could still be getting high flow rates after 30 years,” he said.

“There are other limiting factors in the UK, including the size and density of the population. And the process of fracking was extremely noisy.

“I think it is going to be a limiting factor near towns, these are brutes, these big pumping machines.”

(our emphasis)

So we can look forward to over 30,000 wells in our area. Even if they managed those bleeding edge 40 lateral super pads they are shouting about that equates to 750 brutally noisy pads in our area.

Those of you with long memories (or at least those who can remember as far back as 18 months) may recall our local MP Mark Menzies’ apparent confusion when it was put to him that Cuadrilla might be planning 80 well pads in their licence area. He mumbled something at the public meeting in St Annes about not being able to support a development of that size.

Last week though we heard him joining in the Downing Street chorus warning us that we will miss the shale boat if we don’t jump on board fast.

Perhaps he can explain why he suddenly supports an industry which is going to have 10 times the impact he is on record as saying he couldn’t support?

And hang on a minute – didn’t John Blaymires of iGas say on the Fracking Debate on Radio Lancashire last week that we can expect pads with 8 to 10 wells on occupying areas of 5-6 square kilometres each. Given that the entire area of PEDL 165 is about 30 x 40 km (it is actually 1180 sq km) then even if they fracked EVERYWHERE they could only site 197 well pads at 6 sq km per site. That would only give then 1,967 wells according to Mr Blaymires.

To extract 10% of the 330 tcf claimed by Huw Clarke for the Cuadrilla licence area, as reported by the BBC, (that’s 33 tcf of gas) with 1,967 wells would mean a staggering EUR of over 16 bcf per well. This is fantasy land.

Back in somewhere close to the real world Cuadrilla would have to hope they could consistently drill and maintain 40 well super pads – and they haven’t had much success with their single well pads to date readers, have they?)

Even with their proposed 40 well super pads, to extract 33 tcf of gas they will have to drill from about 200 super pads under every inch of the Fylde and achieve EURs in excess of 3 times the level reported by the USGS (at least 4 bcf per well) , and that’s even higher than the average (3.1 bcf) quoted as supplied by the industry itself in the Cuadrilla sponsored IoD report.

The industrial Fylde awaits, with each super pad being operational for about 3 and half years with traffic, noise and light pollution, flaring, noise and general disturbance. And we haven’t even touched on the health issues!

Of course, in reality what this means is that they WILL have to pepper every available inch with wells, but they still won’t be able to access more than a relatively small percentage of the volume of gas the claim is there.

Returning to Mr Blaymire’s figures – with 10 wells per pad, 200 pads with wells extending every inch of the PEDL and an EUR of 3 bcf per well (to be generous to them) Cuadrilla could only hope to extract 6 trillion cubic feet of gas. That is just under 2% of the gas in place that they are claiming and just 2 years’ worth of UK gas demand.

In other words it doesn’t really matter how much more they say is there – they simply can’t access it given the area involved and current technology. (At least if Mr Blaymires is to be believed).

After we published this article the modestly named @shalegasexpert pointed us towards “More on UK shale footprint, based on real world latest PA production” on his website. We took a look and he says there that:

Going to the excellent, and up to date, figures from the Pennsylvania DEP, we see Susquehanna County produced 692,330,999 MCF of gas in 2013 from 631 wells.

[We have no particular axe to grind with the PA DEP but it should be noted that these numbers are industry reported , non verified figures and the PA DEP has been criticised for dodgy figures in the past – An environmental lawyer … found that the Pennsylvania Department for Environmental Protection’s (DEP) estimation of airborne emissions resulting from unconventional natural gas compressor sites to be “impossibly low.” Not just under-estimated but “several orders of magnitude lower than they could possibly achieve or that I had ever seen anywhere in any permit or any stack test anywhere.” As suggested by this investigator, the air quality described by official records of environmental pollution was a world beyond chemical and mechanical feasibility. This specific assertion of annual industry emissions emerged out of a compendium of 300 spreadsheets with multiple tabs. An environmental advocacy organization employed a programmer to write a python script to convert this unwieldy dataset into a comprehensible format. Without such an investigation, the multiple realities enacted by this data might have remained one more unquestioned monitoring point.”]

Let’s accept them for the moment though.

OK – that’s just less than 1.1 bcf per year per well and as we know from the above “The rate of flow drops by 85% over three years” – so an EUR of around 3 bcf per well probably isn’t way out according to those figures.

He then goes on to tell us that

The top 100 wells in 2013 produced 4.9 BCM

That’s about 1.73bcf each, so again let’s say the best performing wells are capable of EUR’s around the 6 bcf mark. That ties in with industry self reports for the best wells elsewhere.

He then claims that

given multiple wells, that one pad could produce 1.5BCM a year – a true gas factory or also a hole in the ground that will spit out £300M a year for decades to come.

1.5bm is about 53 bcf and if every well is generating that highly optimistic, top 100 level, 1.73 bcf a year that means he is either talking about talking about 30 wells on each pad or he is accepting an annual production rate considerably lower at 1.3 bcf per well to allow him the 40 wells he gets excited about elsewhere in his piece. On the basis of that 80% after 3 years decline curve lets say that the EUR of his wells is a generous 4 bcf per well and he has 40 wells per pad and we can fit 197 wells into the PEDL they would eventually get somewhere close to extracting 31 tcf – just short of 10% of the figure posited by Cuadrilla’s geologist as gas in place yesterday, by the time they have undermined the entire area.

However, the consequences would be such that there would hardly be an inch under the footprint of the PEDL that was not riddled with wells, and we would have 197 mega pads to contend with, with years of suffering for local people who live and work near each one. If each lateral takes a month to frack then each 40 well pad would be active with trucks, flaring, noise, fumes etc for about 3 and a half years. This area would be absolutely unrecognisable and nobody in their right mind would want to live here, work here, bring up a family, buy a house or take a holiday anywhere near here. The idea that any produce grown or raised on the high quality arable land that we have here would not be compromised is simply idiotic.

And, of course, that’s assuming they can actually manage to drill and frack a well with a single horizontal without messing up. Cuadrilla haven’t managed that yet as far as I can tell.

No thanks Mr Expert. We’ll pass thanks.

I wonder what Mr Menzies makes of all that?

You may also like...