Shale gas 2014, the year in review – recap the highlights with us


Shale gas has had a busy year in the UK during 2014.  We’ve seen a raft of announcements from Government, more protests, polling that shows support for shale gas is growing (and polls that show the opposite), and, in the latter part of the year, the increased politicisation of UK shale gas.  Here’s a quick recap of the highlights.

UK shale gas in January 2014

The North West Energy Task Force is formed, bringing together regional business leaders charged with understanding and articulating the potential economic benefits of shale gas extraction in Lancashire and Cheshire.

The European Commission introduces new ‘minimum principles’ for fracking projects, designed to ensure harmonised standards for shale gas projects across the EU.

UK shale gas in February 2014

Cuadrilla Resources names Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood in Lancashire as two sites that it intends to develop for shale gas exploration.

UK shale gas in March 2014

A study by ReFINE published in the journal Marine and Petroleum Geology warns that industry needs to learn from the mistakes of the past at existing onshore oil and gas wells, and raises concerns about so-called ‘orphaned’ wells.

UK shale gas in April 2014

Ernst & Young produce a report that predicts that the supply chain supporting a mature shale gas industry could one day be worth £33 billion and employ over 64,500 people.  It is launched by UKOOG and the then Energy Minister, Michael Fallon, to nearly 400 delegates at a supply chain conference in Blackpool organised by the North West Energy Task Force.

The Government signals its intention to change historic rules on trespass to enable developers to access oil, gas and geothermal energy under private land without the landowner’s permission.

UK shale gas in May 2014

IGas Energy acquires Dart Energy to become the UK’s largest shale gas licence holder.

The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee launches its report on the economic potential of UK shale gas and oil.

Egdon Resources announces that it has acquired Alkane Energy.

UK shale gas in June 2014

Cuadrilla Resources submits planning applications for two new shale gas exploration sites in Lancashire, accompanied by the most comprehensive environmental impact assessments of their kind seen so far, compiled by international consulting company Arup.

UK shale gas in July 2014

The British Geological Survey (BGS) publishes a report estimating that the Midland Valley in Scotland could contain 80 trillion cubic feet of gas and six million barrels of oil.

A report by consultants Amion compiled for IGas Energy and Peel Energy suggests that shale gas resources in the Mersey Ocean Gateway could be worth £10 billion to the economy and support up to 3,500 jobs.

National Grid says shale gas could meet 41% of the UK’s gas needs within 29 years.

The Government launches the long-awaited 14th onshore licensing round.

UK shale gas in August 2014

Labour attempts to strengthen what it describes as inadequate regulation of the UK fracking industry by tabling a series of amendments to the Infrastructure Bill. It says it wants to see well-by-well disclosure of fracking fluid, baseline monitoring of methane in groundwater and environmental impact assessments for all shale gas sites.

No Dash For Gas and Reclaim The Power establishes a two week camp in a field near Blackpool to protest at shale gas development. The protest included a day of nationwide direct action.

A scientist is accused of claiming false qualifications after giving evidence against fracking in a number of public inquiries Dr David Smythe, a former professor at Glasgow University, is told by the Geological Society that he cannot use the title ‘chartered geologist’.

It emerges that a report by DEFRA was redacted 63 times in 13 pages in a move described as ‘comical’ by anti-fracking campaigners.

A Populus poll conducted for UKOOG finds that 57% of Britons think shale gas should go ahead, with only 16% opposed and 27% undecided.

Rathlin Energy says oil and gas tests at its Weston Newton exploration well show ‘exciting’ potential. This and another site at Crawberry Hill has been the subject of anti-fracking protests.

Third Energy gains planning permission to drill for gas at Ebberston Moor in North Yorkshire.

UK shale gas in September 2014

Duke University and others in the USA publish a report that confirms poor well construction is responsible for water contamination, not hydraulic fracturing. The same report finds that upwards migration of gas from the shale bed as a result of horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing is also unlikely.

Celtique Energie has its plans to explore for shale oil in the South Downs National Park thrown out by the South Downs National Park Authority.

A study by researchers at the University of Manchester finds that, on some measures, fracking is less damaging to the environment than renewable energy sources.

Wave 10 of the DECC Public Attitudes Tracker finds that 24% of people surveyed support shale gas development, 47% say they neither support not oppose it, and 24% are against.

UK shale gas in October 2014

IGas Energy announces plans to drill a third exploratory well in North West England.

The National Farmers Union (NFU), which represents 47,000 farm businesses across England and Wales, says its members fear the land above fracking sites could be reduced in value “because of current attitudes and perceptions of fracking” – even if no harm was actually caused.

A policy paper is published by a recycling and waste expert that highlights the potential role for shale gas in powering the circular economy.

UK shale gas November 2014

INEOS, owner of the Grangemouth refinery complex, announces a £640 million investment plan in a bid to become the leader in shale gas extraction as it seeks to support its UK chemical manufacturing plants.

A group of leading academics called for the Traffic Light System of seismic monitoring to be reviewed, saying that the very low limit of just 0.5 magnitude are overly stringent.

Government announces plans for a shale gas sovereign wealth fund to boost the regional economy in what it’s calling the Northern Powerhouse.

Denton, Texas, introduces a ban on fracking within the city limits

Third Energy announces plans to test frack at its Kirby Misperton site in North Yorkshire.

A health impact assessment compiled by Lancashire County Council concludes that the key risks to the health and wellbeing of residents near proposed shale gas sites include stress and anxiety stemming from a lack of public trust and confidence and noise related effects.

UK shale gas in December 2015

The Onshore Energy Services Group launches in London, giving SMEs in the onshore oil and gas supply chain a louder voice.

The Environment Agency embarks on a ‘minded to grant’ consultation on environmental permit applications submitted by Cuadrilla Resources.

The State of New York announces that it is imposing a state-wide ban on hydraulic fracturing.


What might 2015 bring? 

Where UK shale gas and fracking is concerned, it’s impossible to second-guess what developments we might expect to see.  One thing is for certain: it’s not going away any time soon, and will continue to provoke debate throughout 2015 and probably beyond.