Highest ever levels of shale gas in the UK are found at Nottinghamshire site, says Ineos

What the site at Tinker Lane could look like
What the site at Tinker Lane could look like

The highest ever levels of shale gas in the UK have been found from drilling tests carried out at a site in Nottinghamshire, says an energy company.

The latest readings from the test site at Tinker Lane near Barnby Moor, were significantly higher than at one of the biggest fracking locations in the US, according to energy giant Ineos.

The firm, which carried out the testing along with IGas Energy, believes there could be enough shale gas in one area alone to keep the whole country supplied for 29 years. That's equivalent to a trillion dollars-worth of gas.

However a local group says it is doubtful about the findings.

Tom Pickering, chief operating officer of INEOS Shale, said a previous report by the British Geological Survey had estimated there could be 436 trillion cubic feet of gas available in an area it has classified as the 'East Midlands' area, but actually stretches up as far as Doncaster, Sheffield and Wakefield.

He told Nottinghamshire Live: "It is still early days, but these are the first physical results we've had which correlate with the British Geological Survey work.

"It's extremely significant and has enormous potential. All of the vital signs are starting to show themselves. It's not so much of a surprise, more of a confirmation."

He added: "These are the highest readings in the UK that we have ever seen and give a glimpse of the possibilities that UK shale can provide if given the chance.

"These are 'US levels' of gas and could be truly transformational for the UK economy, bringing untold jobs and investment to some of the countries most deprived areas.

"With Brexit just around the corner and the UK increasingly dependent on expensive foreign gas, now is the time for strong leadership to take advantage of a once in a generation opportunity to create an indigenous shale gas industry. Specifically, we need the right regulations on shale - making further testing both safe and viable."

Fracking involves drilling down into the earth and using high-pressure liquid to open existing fissures in shale rock to release the gas inside.

The 'East Midlands' area is part of the Bowland shale basin, a large swathe of country stretching roughly from Wrexham and Blackpool in the west to Nottingham and Scarborough in the east which potentially contains large volumes of gas.

Ineos estimates that 20 per cent of the 436 trillion cubic feet of gas available could be extracted, which would be just over 87 trillion cubic feet. With the UK using around three trillion cubic feet a year, a supply of this size would supply the country for 29 years.

Ineos says that tests carried out at Tinker Lane found an average level of 60.7 standard cubic feet (scf) per tonne, while the average for the Barnett shale in Texas is 39 scf per tonne.

It says that because Tinker Lane sits on the edge of the Bowland shale, further drilling tests are now being carried out at Springs Road in Misson Springs, north Notts, where commercial drilling is much more likely to be viable.

However, Rob Boeuf from the Tinker Lane community liaison group, said: "This is not what the community has been told. It runs counter to the information that we've been given.

"The community liaison group has been told there was a show of gas in the millstone grit but that Bowland shale was not located. It has been plugged and they have gone to Misson Springs."

An operational update issued today from IGas stated: "We note the press article today [in The Sun] in relation to our Tinker Lane exploration site in North Nottinghamshire.

"The preliminary tests on shale samples from within the Millstone Grit Group at Tinker Lane are encouraging for the potential gas resources in the Gainsborough Trough basin.

"The analysis of these samples is still subject to further testing and validation. As previously stated, the well, which is part of a wider exploration programme in the basin, has been plugged and abandoned and preparations are being made to fully restore the site."

The sites at Tinker Lane and Springs Road are the only two places where test drilling has been carried out by Ineos in Nottinghamshire. But it also has permission to drill at Marsh Lane near Eckington in Derbyshire, and Harthill on the South Yorkshire-Derbyshire border.

There have been protests at the Tinker Lane site, but Mr Pickering said these were not by local people. And he also criticised local authorities which have blocked fracking developments in some areas.

"We've always respected the views of local people. That respectful relationship is important. All we can do is build that trust over time by doing our job safely and well.

"The people protesting outside sites are not local people, they are people with ideological views about fossil fuels.

"The planning and development aspect of this is often turned down at a local level. But it's 40 years since we have built on industry on this scale, and we need to consider very carefully the consequences of rejecting an industry like this."

He said that he wanted to bring gas extraction into the production stage "as soon as possible" and that, if planning timescales were adhered to, that could be in two to three years' time.

Story as told to Notts Post