A new study published by trade body UK Onshore Oil and Gas
(UKOOG) shows that the development of 400 well pads in the UK
could reduce the country’s dependency on gas
imports by 50% with a limited impact on countryside
According to the study, titled Developing Shale Gas and
Maintaining the Beauty of the British Countryside, the
well pads – the size of two football pitches each
– were compared to energy supplied by 88,000
electricity pylons, 9,000 municipal waste treatment
facilities and 5,300 individual wind turbines already in
The extraction of oil and gas via fracking in the UK has
been a highly contentious issue, since M2.3 and M1.5
earthquakes near Blackpool in 2011 as a result of well
testing by Cuadrilla Resources Ltd at Preese Hall, led to
a temporary suspension of all shale gas operations in the UK
while an independent investigation was carried out.
Since then, the current UK government has exhibited support
for the practice by speeding up the process through which
companies can obtain fracking licences. In December,
Britain’s High Court ruled that a fracking permit
awarded by North Yorkshire County Council for Third Energy
Holdings Plc’s Ryedale operation was legal,
following challenges from environmental campaign groups.
The industry is a large consumer of oilfield minerals such
as proppant materials like frac sand, and kaolin and bauxite
used in ceramic proppants, as well as barite, bentonite,
graphite and calcium carbonate.
However the development of the industry continues to be
opposed by environmental campaigners due to concerns over
groundwater contamination, the overreliance on fossil fuels,
neglecting renewable energy sources and potential earthquakes
caused by fracking
Alongside its published report, the UKOOG outlined that no
single model will cover all licence areas in the UK as geology
varies between locations and further exploration is needed.
However, the report examined a number factors such as
considerations taken into account by operators when choosing
a site, using a typical US example of a 10 well site or pad.
Based on such a model, the report outlined that fracking
could take place between seven and 11 pads of two hectares each
in a typical 10km by 10km licence block, taking up 0.2% of land
in the block.
Each pad would have around 10 well heads leading to 10
horizontal wells extending underground between 1.5km and 2.5km
at a depth of around 2,400 metres. It used the parameter of 24
metre- to 54 metre-high temporary drilling rigs – on
site for a matter of weeks – which it said are similar
in height to an electricity pylon but smaller than a wind
turbine. The report added that during gas production the
wellhead would be around 2 metres.
"This study shows how shale gas can be developed in the UK
while preserving the natural beauty of the British
countryside. The oil and gas industry has operated onshore
for over a century, drilling over 2,000 wells, yet few people
would know we are there," Keith Cronin, the CEO of UKOOG,
said in a statement.
Cronin emphasised the need for the development of gas
resources in the UK to avoid a future scenario of having to
import 80% of its gas needs by 2035.
Chinese bentonite trade
The value of bentonite shipped from China in January to
November 2016 reached $52m, surpassing full year 2015 ($42m)
and 2014 ($36m) values, according to the latest data from
December figures were not yet available at time of
The latest 2016 figures saw export values remaining steady
in September, October and November with $3.9m, $3.9m and $4m of
bentonite exported respectively.
Volumes increased in the same timeframe, from 18,368 tonnes
in September up to 23,656 tonnes in November.
August saw some of the lowest export volumes for the year at
15,700 tonnes, but with some of the highest export values seen
at $5.7m. That month, $/tonne export prices reached $360,
compared to 2016 lows of $169/tonne in November.
Most Chinese bentonite is calcium dominant; a wide range of
colour and purity means that a wide range of markets can be
supplied, from IOP, foundry, civil engineering and drilling
through to desiccants, oil purification, paper and
Chinese barite trade
The data from China customs also shows that value and
volumes increased by 36% and 51% year on year (y-o-y)
Volumes exported for 2016, excluding December, amounted to
over 1.5m tonnes with a value of $176m.
This compares with 2m tonnes at a value of $273m in
2015 and 2.7m tonnes at a value of $348m in 2014. China is the
largest producer of barite in the world and the second biggest
consumer after the US.
Chinese barite is exported largely to the US, where January
figures from Baker Hughes indicate drilling activity is
improving. The tentative signs of recovery have led to some
projections of increased barite consumption in 2017, as
reported by IM consultant Ian Wilson in November.