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Durham University

Durham Energy Institute


14th onshore oil and gas licensing round: Expert reaction

(18 August 2015)

The Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) – the UK’s oil and gas regulator – today announced that 27 onshore blocks from the 14th Onshore Oil and Gas Licensing Round will be formally offered to companies. Expert reaction to this announcement , including from DEI's Andy Aplin, was released by the Science Media Centre.

Prof Andrew Aplin, Professor of Unconventional Petroleum at Durham University, said:

"There can be no sensible discussion of the role of shale in the UK energy mix until wells are drilled and tested for commercial production. These licences may allow that to happen - but the public will have to accept the drilling or the government will have to force the issue. Once we know what the possibilities are, a more rational discussion may ensue about the desirability and viability of an onshore shale industry."


Prof Richard Davies, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Engagement & Internationalisation) at Newcastle University, and former Director of DEI, said:

“In terms of the environment the big question is over the scale of future fracking activity in the UK. 

“Even with this announcement, whether shale gas will work commercially in the UK is unknown and ultimately depends on whether the shale rocks are suitable. But what’s of interest with this announcement is that with the exception of GDF Suez, Total and Ineos the licence round awards go to small companies. It may be that the UK is simply not vast enough, or too early a stage, to be of interest to many of the majors yet. So it’s very early days. 

“If the rocks do produce then we are fortunate that the USA has developed the technology significantly and we can learn from their mistakes. But there is no room for complacency as drilling and fracking are not risk free. Sharing data and openness will be important so that the risks can be best understood and the impacts reduced.’


Prof Quentin Fisher, Professor of Petroleum Geoengineering at the University of Leeds, said:

“It’s encouraging to see that industry has not been put off investing in shale gas exploration in the UK by the recent illogical decision of the Lancashire council to withhold planning permission for Cuadrilla to drill further exploration wells on their license. Some of the 27 licences being awarded are very close to where I live. So I’m particularly pleased that the government has given my local community the opportunity to help the UK become more secure in its energy needs.

“Awarding these licenses is important because the data collected during the exploration will allow us to better predict the UK’s shale gas resources, which are currently extremely poorly constrained.”

Read factsheets and briefings on shale gas and fracking produced by ReFINE research consortium, a collaboration between Durham and Newcastle Universities.