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Delays for Spain's unconventional plans

Spain's unconventional plans are delayed, while in the UK, Cuadrilla considers six new sites for fracking

Delays in Spain

Repsol has delayed its shale-gas exploration programme in northern Spain because of a ban of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). The company had hoped to begin seismic work on its acreage in Cantabria in July. 

The local Cantabrian government voted in April to ban fracking in a region thought to be rich in unconventional natural gas. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) said Spain could have 227 billion cubic metres (cm) of recoverable shale gas in the country. However, Spain’s oil and gas trade group, Aciep, believes the country’s unconventional gas resources could be far greater. Aciep said Spain could have almost 2 trillion cm of shale gas in the Basque and Cantabrian regions alone.  

Spain has been hit hard by the global economic downturn and the recent fracking ban makes a boost from a nascent shale gas industry look unlikely any time soon.

The OECD said on 9 July that Spain’s unemployment rate reached almost 27% in May and more than one in two young people in the country were without work. Average unemployment across Europe reached 12.2% in May, the OECD said, the highest level since the early 1990’s.

Cuadrilla makes plans

Cuadrilla Resources said it plans to apply for drilling and fracking licences at six new sites in northern England.

The UK independent said it will delay a decision on drilling and testing at its existing Anna’s Road site until later in the exploration programme. The company also said it intends to apply for permission to carry out fracking and testing at its site in Grange Hill, northern England.

The company said the exact locations of the new sites and the order in which they might be drilled will be decided over the next few months. Cuadrilla will also apply for planning consent to drill up to three further vertical exploration wells which will not be fracked, it said.

The company would then need to test gas flow rates from some of exploration wells which have already been fracked. This would help to determine how much gas can be extracted.

Francis Egan, Cuadrilla’s chief executive, said the company was sharing its exploration plans because it hopes to win the support of the UK public. “The purpose of all our ongoing exploratory work is to demonstrate that natural gas can be produced from shale in commercial quantities,” Egan said. “By sharing our plans for the exploratory programme, we hope that people will have an understanding of what we to do and why.” 

The British Geological Survey said last month that there could be vast shale-gas reserves in the UK.

In June, Cuadrilla sold a 25% stake in the company to UK utility firm Centrica for £40 million ($62.7m). 

Poland tests disappoint

FX Energy said test results from tight gas wells in Poland have been disappointing. 

The company said it has finished testing on three wells at the top of the Rotliegend tight sandstone area, in western Poland’s Permian Basin. The wells, which have been hydraulically fracked, produced only non-commercial levels of gas as well as formation water. “We are analysing the test results and other data to see if any further activities might be warranted in the tight gas areas of the Fences concession,” said Andy Pierce FX Energy’s vice president of operations. “But these test results are disappointing to FX Energy and to our partner, PGNiG, the national oil company in Poland.”

Poland’s state-run oil and gas company, PGNiG, has a 51% stake in the Fences concession, where the test wells were drilled. PGNiG also operates the licence, which covers 1,647 square kms. FX Energy holds the remaining 49%.

FX Energy’s announcement is the latest mishap in Poland’s efforts to develop unconventional gas. Both Talisman Energy and ExxonMobil have pulled out of shale gas acreage in Poland because of disappointing test results.  

Last month the EIA downgraded its estimates of Poland’s shale gas reserves from 5.3 trillion cm in a 2011 study, to 4.2 trillion cm in this year’s report.

Turkey shale plans pushed back

The Turkish government has ruled out domestic shale-gas exploration before 2020 because of a lack of data and investment. Turkey’s energy minister, Taner Yildiz told local media.

The minister has previously said the Ankara, Konya, Thrace and Nevsehir regions could all be explored for shale gas. Turkey’s state-run oil and gas company, TPAO, struck a deal with Shell in 2011 to explore for shale gas in the southeastern region of Diyarbakir.

Shell also has joint operating agreements with TPAO to carry out preliminary oil and gas exploration and appraisal activities in the Mediterranean Sea off the southwest Turkish coast, near Bati Toros, and onshore in southeast Anatolia near Dadas.

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