Fylde doesn’t look promising for fracking – veteran US geologist


Source: BGS/DECC Bowland Shale gas study

A veteran US shale geologist now working with INEOS has raised doubts about fracking in a key area of the UK.

Dan Steward, a former vice president of the fracking pioneer Mitchell Energy, told a parliamentary group this afternoon the Bowland Basin in Lancashire didn’t look promising. He said he was worried by the complex structure of the basin.

The Bowland shale is found across much of northern England but the Bowland Basin, referred to by Mr Steward, covers the part of Lancashire inland from Blackpool (see map above).

The area includes two sites where Cuadrilla has applied to drill and frack up to eight wells. A decision on whether they should go ahead is expected within weeks.

The Bowland Basin is also the site of the first and only well in the UK to use high volume hydraulic fracturing. That operation, at Preese Hall in spring 2011, led to two small earthquakes and a temporary moratorium on fracking.

Speaking to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Unconventional Gas and Oil, Mr Steward said:

“The structure in some of the [UK] basins looks pretty complex.

“I am hoping the Bowland Basin works. But the Bowland Basin is one of your most complex. It worries me that it could hurt you.

“I hope it works. But based on the knowledge we get from the US it doesn’t look promising.”

Commenting on how fracking might work in the shale of the Bowland Basin, he said: “If your natural fractures are all healed and it causes your matrix to be mineralised you are going to have a hard time.”

Mr Steward added: “The result of production tests will confirm the position in the Bowland Basin either way”.

He also said:

“There are several basins that we do like.”

Asked where they were, another member of the INEOS Shale team, the Chief Executive, Gary Hayward, told the meeting:

“If you look on the DECC [Department of Energy and Climate Change] map at where we’ve got the licences that might be a clue.

“It’s basically across the north of the country. We’ve got some licences in the central belt of Scotland. Eventually, if we can get the Scottish Government on board we’d like to explore there as well.”

INEOS was the big winner from last year’s oil and gas licensing ground. It was awarded 21 licences, giving it exclusive exploration rights to a total of one million acres.

INEOS licences

Red blocks were awarded to INEOS last year. Yellow blocks were awarded to other companies. Grey blocks were awarded in previous licensing rounds.

The licences are in Yorkshire, the East Midlands and Cheshire. The company is currently arranging to carry out seismic testing and in July it told the Financial Times it expected to submit up to 30 planning applications to drill test wells in the next six months.

59 replies »

  1. I sincerely hope that Yorkshire proves just as disappointing to the fracking industry as well so the government will be forced to move with the rest of the world towards a fossil fuel free energy more quickly – and fully commit to an energy solution that is sustainable, funded and deliverable.

    • Interesting that tonight coal is producing 17% of UK electricity, why? because it’s relatively still and offshore wind can only contribute about 3%. OK so that’s a sample of what could happen in January or February next year. That’s one potential green contribution of shale gas, as a way of reducing dependence on coal as a backup fuel.

        • No not Orwellian Dan, just a common response to the obvious point that on a cold, still night in winter the only green electricity will be produced by imported wood chips burning at Drax (about 4.5% of Uk electricity supply). So in the near to medium term, until battery power catches up, the only way to fill the gap will be a fossil fuel, either coal or gas. Nuclear couldn’t be built in time. Which one do you prefer, neither I suppose but got any other practical solutions in near term? Sorry the idea that in the next decade the UK can provide it’s electricity needs from renewable sources is a dangerous delusion.

          By the way the National Grid is reporting that tomorrow, due to outages at existing power stations, the country may be 1GW undersupplied which I suspect will be a first for September. As I write I suspect that a mothballed coal fired stations will be being started up to cover the gap. Probably won’t make the media but worth checking Gridwatch to see where our electricity is coming from.

        • Do you mean wind turbines, concerned citizen, as I write Gridwatch, taking data from the Grid, shows that offshore wind is producing 5.4% of our electricity and onshore wind adds about another third of that so about 7.2% in total. That compares with gas producing 47% and nuclear 24.2%. Look it up yourself on Gridwatch or Gridcarbon if you don’t believe me. Wind turbines and solar farms look mighty impressive and are obvious in the landscape but their contribution is small relative to fossil fuels at present. One final thing, when I look at wind turbines in the landscape it does make me think of the objections to the Cuadrilla drilling rig which may be one structure 150 ft high.

            • No electricity Rowandmar but hopefully lots of gas which can be used either directly in the 80% of homes that have gas central heating or fed into the CCGT power station system, replacing imported gas. Regarding productivity we won’t know until we explore the possibilities but the average rig in the Utica shale area in the USA now produces about 7 million cubic feet of gas per day. In laymen’s terms, a shed load! No wonder gas costs in the US are, I believe, half those in Europe. I don’t suppose we’ll be quite that productive but again we won’t know until we try.

              • Mark,everyday those turbines turn means LESS fossil fuel burned. Every solar panel, LESS fossil fuel burned. This is happening NOW.

                Smart meters and austerity are reducing demand.

                Insulation and use for need, not want of greed is the future. You are not listening shale gas investor….we have enough fossil fuel reserves on the planet to kill us all; we don’t need any more.

                We should be moving away from industrialized food production which burn ridiculous amounts of fossil energy, covers our food in plastic, and the psychology of the supermarkets who would rather reduce the food in your plastic container to keep it the same price to keep up the profit wars.

                Let’s put in place as much clean energy production (and I don’t mean out-of-date inflated, waste producing nuclear) and smart energy use, then we can assess just how little fossil fuel we need to burn.

                Shale oil and gas is losing millions of dollars in the US. It ,and all of those ponzi schemes holding up our systems, will crash round our ears and leave the so called ‘first world’ (how arrogant) with nothing and a population that is used to ‘feeding stations’ and not able to find their own food.

                Time to get out of bed, I think and put this lazy fossil fuel induced dream out of our heads and face reality; we need to stop denying clean energy production and start building; after all, recent polls have shown the people and businesses of the UK prefer renewables to fossil fuel generation.

        • “A fossil fuel that may be less harmful than coal does not make it green….” indeed it doesn’t, it just makes it the best alternative when almost no renewable can make a serious contribution to electricity production, as in on a cold, still night in winter. I hope we can have an all green future, but we are not there and in the meantime I do need to keep my ipad charged up to produce more of this stuff.

        • KT – the relevant (to this BB) part of this article you have posted is the 50% increase in demand for electricity coming over the next 25 years (according to the graph). The fossil fuel and nuclear contribution increases and then stays flat to, and after 2025? So how does this demonstrate renewables replacing fossil fuels? It appears to show renewables taking up the additional demand but fossil fuel use does not drop. And this is the concern, existing sources of oil and gas are being depleted faster than they are being replaced. New exploration and new sources are required to meet this forecast. The Telegraph article quoted by Mr. Peeney somewhere else on this BB today explains how un green wind can actually be. And a proper assessment of solar has shown the realities behind this “green” technology.:

          And how “green” is Drax?

      • It’s “February next year”, and Wind is currently producing 19.45% of our electricity. Tidal could replace coal completely and more besides. It never fluctuates It’s the ‘nuclear’ of renewables generation.

    • ‘the rest of the world’? Did you miss the Paris accord? Numerous countries plan to increase fossil fuel use before decreasing it and many developing countries specifically set things up to allow increased coal use – they just did so by trying to make sure other countries doubled down on not doing so.

      Just as a quick check it typed ‘fossil fuel peak use prediction’ into google and read the first few papers and news articles based on a filter from the past 12 months. None describe a rapid change to renewable energy. A couple suggested it might (MIGHT) be possible that fossil fuel use in ELECTRICAL generation could PEAK in about a decade if alot of subsidies are put in. That would be a peak from providing 66% of global electrical energy today and would drop to about 45% in 2040.

      So yep, we’re forcing the governments of the world to move to fossil fuel free (you said energy, are you differentiating between total energy and just electrical energy?) energy. If you don’t give a date when you think it might be done by though then you’re just playing with words. You’ve written three lines, but without any dates or figures its all just words, and those are hollow.

    • “Twenty years ago every geologist involved in Appalachian Basin oil and gas knew about the Devonian black shale called the Marcellus. Its black color made it easy to spot in the field and its slightly radioactive signature made it a very easy pick on a geophysical well log.

      However, very few of these geologists were excited about the Marcellus Shale as a major source of natural gas. Wells drilled through it produced some gas but rarely in commercial amounts. Few if any in the natural gas industry suspected that the Marcellus might soon be a major contributor to the natural gas supply of the United States – large enough to be spoken of as a “super giant” gas field.

      As recently as 2002 the United States Geological Survey in its Assessment of Undiscovered Oil and Gas Resources of the Appalachian Basin Province, calculated that the Marcellus Shale contained an estimated undiscovered resource of about 1.9 trillion cubic feet of gas. [1] That’s a lot of gas but spread over the enormous geographic extent of the Marcellus it was not that much per acre.”

      Today geologists are on record estimating technically recoverable reserves in the Marcellus of around 500 tcf, around 250x estimates from a little over one decade ago. So, beware the doubters. I would wait until we get 20 to 30 locations drilled to start trying to define the Bowland. What we do know is that the one well that was fracked vertically showed some fairly promising results. Promising enough to excite many operators.

      Time (and a few exploratory wells) will tell!!!!

      • Still here peeny? i thought you had resigned developed a ballpeeny and gone native?
        You still have no humanity on your google page, no presence, nothing, I will ignore you until you declare who you are, what anyone else does is up to them, you really are an AI machine aren’t you?

        For those with eyes, look at this:

        This is what we can expect in England if the fracking feeding frenzy starts. this is what fracking really means.

        • Won’r be resigning anytime soon, Phil, because, you see, we are winning. We are going to frack soon, and show the people of the UK that the only thing to fear are the anti-fracker, anti-fact, extremist nut-jobs like yourself (of course I mean this in the nicest way possible!). LOL

      • “What we do know is that the one well that was fracked vertically showed some fairly promising results. Promising enough to excite many operators.”

        And for this “excitement” you are relying on figures from an investor presentation made by Dart Energy and a statement that from AJ Lucas that “the comingled flow produced satisfactory amounts of gas and frac flowback”?

        Well, I can’t speak for your clients Peeny, but with the INEOS statements above and what you are relying on I think I can safely say that I’ve been more excited by a cup of coffee.

        A regards your estimates for the Marcellus, the EIA’s current figure, published in 2015, for technically recoverable resources (estimates amount of gas that might be technically recovered if production were not constrained by economics) for the entire “East” region. (which covers the Marcellus and other plays) for Shale Gas and Tight Oil is 298.8 tcf (Page 130 of That’s rather less than 500 tcf you claim, constrained by economics, for the Marcellus alone, isn’t it? Shouldn’t the constrained figure be lower?

        The EUR’s shown on P 133 of that report suggest that your previous claims here of 5 bcf a well potential here in the UK look, how can I put this … a tad optimistic too 😉

        Rather than revising estimates upwards the trajectory is in fact in the other direction. In 2011 the EIA reported that the Marcellus Shale contained approximately 410 tcf of technically recoverable natural gas but the following year the agency revised that number downwards to 141 tcf didn’t they?

        So, which geologists are claiming on record estimating technically recoverable reserves in the Marcellus of around 500 tcf and why are their estimates so much at odds with the EIA?

        • Of course you are not excited by the prospect, John. You hate the idea of someone producing gas onshore, and you especially hate the idea of someone making money doing so. As I’ve said previously, my optimism is based on commentary from management (not on the presentations, although the >1mm scf/day IP rate highlighted by Dart is rather exciting for a vertical flow), and management is rather excited. So, have yourself a nice cup of coffee, and relax a bit my man!

          As for the Marcellus, my statement was as follows: “Today geologists are on record estimating technically recoverable reserves in the Marcellus of around 500 tcf. I didn’t say that the EIA was on record saying so. You are wrong yet again, John!!! Here’s a quote for you “But Penn State geoscientist Terry Engelder said their work assumes current prices. He said that ignoring prices, there is likely 480 trillion cubic feet of gas that is technically recoverable in the Marcellus.”

          The 5 bcf/well came from this study of the productivity of 3,800 wells in the Marcellus. If you feel that the data is “a tad optimistic” that’s up to you. But the data is the data and I’m sorry it isn’t conveying what you’d like.

          • I don’t hate the idea of anyone making money from producing gas onshore – I just find it an unlikely prospect – you still haven’t explained how they will do that with even the industry forecasting extraction costs twice the current wholesale price of gas. It seems that the proved reserves in the UK (the amount of technically recoverable resources that can be economically and legally produced under existing economic and operating conditions, such as extraction costs and applicable laws), must be about zero just now.

            Keep up Peeny I don’t say you said the EIA said anything – you seem desperate to score points. Grow up please. But it’s even worse than I said then …

            From your link “According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s latest estimate, there is 64.9 trillion cubic feet of “proved reserves” locked up in the shale layer [the figure does keep going down not up it seems ]” the it goes on to say “Terry Engelder said their work assumes current prices. He said that ignoring prices, there is likely 480 trillion cubic feet of gas that is technically recoverable in the Marcellus.”

            So he is presumably saying by “ignoring prices” that if you ignore any economic constraints and drill at a huge loss you might get that larger amount out eventually if you haven’t gone bust along time earlier. OK – whatever Peeny – meanwhile back in the real world….

            As to your 5bcf – hey the data from the EIA is just data – ignore it if it doesn’t suit your argument – you normallly do 😉

            • John, do I have to educate you once again? This gets sooooo tiresome. “Technically recoverable” by definition is a measure that ignores economic consideration. So, my original statement was absolutely correct and I proved it. You just don’t quite comprehend some of the industry terms which sometimes makes it difficult for you to keep up.

              We are winning John. It’s killing you, I realize. But fracking is coming to an area near you, and there’s not much you can do about it. Sure you can continue to post inaccurate, sensationalist rants, but that’s not going to do much except cause the locals more stress.

              Best o’ luck!

              • LOL – which part of “technically recoverable resources (estimates amount of gas that might be technically recovered if production were not constrained by economics)” did you find so hard to understand?

                You are winning are you LOL? We haven’t even had kick off yet matey 🙂 xxx

                Best o’luck – you’ll surely need it.

        • John Hobson called me a liar for stating that Cuadrilla had vertical flow data from a well that looked promising. He had no basis for this claim (as with so many that he makes) as there was publicly available information that this flow data was available. Then he attempted to ridicule me for believing that flow results from a multi-stage vertical frack would provide data that could be helpful in ascertaining horizontal productivity.

          Ineos has just announced it is seeking to drill five vertical wells and that it hopes to gain permission by year end. Head of Operations for Ineos Shale, said, ““The results of flow tests [from the sampled wells] will tell us if commercial production is viable.” So, Ineos evidently agrees with me and the rest of the industry that vertical fracking can provide important information about horizontal productivity. It seems that the only one who cannot get his mind around this is you, John. And exactly how is it that I am a liar?

          • Cuadrilla do indeed have flow data and it is very encouraging (their words). It has probably not been made public because it was not a definitive well test in accordance with reservoir engineering protocols and the data is just indicative of productivity. But they did get a significant flow of gas apparently. But nothing to worry about as we keep being told that the geology is wrong, flow rates are not sustainable, all the buildings in the Fylde basin will fall down, the water will be poisoned, the cows will stop milking, the area will become a no go radiation zone, it will be far too expensive etc. etc. – so it won’t happen.

          • It’s not me who is calling you a liar Peeny – It was Francis Egan from Cuadrilla who on the record stated in Janury 2016 “This is very hypothetical, given we haven’t drilled a single well and tested the flow rate yet.” – yes he was presumably referring horizontal wells but he also seems to be saying he doesn’t have any meaningful flow rate data doesn’t he ?

            Don’t be so touchy – It’s a bit ridiculous you getting on your high horse about your honesty when you won’t admit who you are and you use at least 5 different IDs (sometimes at the same time) across the various social media platforms you infest LOL

            • See above John. I was told the flow rate but can’t recall it exactly. It was up in the several MMSCFDs and apperaed to be quite good. Presumably DECC also have this data – why not ask them or put in a FOI request? Sorry, no longer DECC, but perhaps the OGA or whoever looks after this now.

            • No, John. It is obvious you are misreading his quote. He doesn’t have flow data from horizontal wells. Why would the part owner of Cuadrilla say that they captured meaningful flow data when they did not? Do you have any proof that AJ Lucas and Dart lied about the flow data from Cuadrilla?

              • Peeny – again, don’t take issue with *me* on this – it is not me who has published those awkward estimates of extraction costs which are causing you to keep squawking (with no substantive evidence) that costs will suddenly drop so we can ignore them. Have a go at those who gave the estimates (that includes the evidence from the industry to our government by the way).

                • I don’t have to “have a go” at anyone, John. The capital markets figure these things out quite efficiently without John Hobson dictating what they should or should not do!

                  Also, I would prefer to rely on current empirical data rather than stale expert opinions. Esp when those experts are motivated to inflate costs.

                  Best of luck!

                • Here’s some more up-to-date information for you, John.

                  INEOS’ director of shale operations recently had this to say about shale economics, “Our commitment to shale and the economics of extraction remain as strong as ever and we look forward to kick-starting British manufacturing with this new competitive fuel source.”

                  Of course costs in the industry have dropped by 50% or more since your experts’ testimony. So you are operating with some very stale information.

                  Regardless, the economics are strong enough to attract lots of attention and onshore shale gas exploration is about to commence in earnest.

    • [Edited by moderator} Is it the same David Smythe whose papers are regularly panned by practicing Geologists, and who has been shown to promote false conclusions in the name of supporting the anti-frack community? I cannot believe that the oh-so-neutral Ruth Hayhurst would promote such a wily rascal as a viable “expert” if this were the case! LOL

      Fracking is accomplished in complex geologies outside the UK. The geologists who are closest to the data seem to have a different opinion than Smythe – I wonder why that might be???

      • Oh dear Peeny – getting your posts edited now – not being abusive again are we? Perhaps you were so over-excited that you even replied to the wrong thread?

        It seems that Prof Smythe, Prof Stephenson of the BGS and this INEOS chappie are all saying the same thing – let’s hear your case for why they are all wrong rather than just another ad hominem attack on Prof Smythe.

  2. Will be interesting to see. The geologist is referring to the overall basin seismic and hypothesising what faulting might mean if fluid flow associated with the fault has led to mineralisation, which will have reduced local permeability. Obviously Cuadrilla have core samples from multiple wells so they have reasonable estimations of the gas in place. It has always been the case that a few test wells might reveal that a basin is not economic. The UK has multiple basins and as the geologist states INEOS is happier that it has acquired some of the more productive ones.

  3. So, no more spin and speculation when referring to the Bowland Basin. The geology will have the last word in Lancashire and elsewhere. It is to be hoped our new PM, a geographer (!), is taking careful note and giving senior ministers plenty of sound advice.

    • If she wants a second opinion Prof David Smythe said pretty much the same thing to LCC’s Development Control Committee.

      Click to access Smythe%20new%20information%20on%20Cuadrilla%20applications%20April%202015%20v1.0.pdf

      Of course the shills said he was a fraud because his evidence frightens the bejasus out of them. Now that INEOS have basically said he was right all along it will be interesting to see how this affects the outcome of the inquiry.

      It would be cynical to suggest that the timing of this revelation might indicate that INEOS are trying to torpedo a competitor wouldn’t it?

      • This John Hobson is a very slippery fella.

        He completely made up the fact that I had admitted that the 1,300 tcf OGIP figure was just a guess. He implied that I was a liar for communicating information given to me by management of Cuadrilla, even though that information was publicly available.

        He implied a massive wastewater treatment number of 200 million cubic meters, not even bothering to consider wastewater recycling which can reduce treatment by almost 90%. The correct retreatment number is closer to 5.7 million m3 over mulitple decades, but Hobson couldn’t scare people with that number so he chose to use the higher, less factual figure.

        He quoted from a David Mackay study implying that the scientist had said that LNG would only contribute a small amount of methane emissions versus domestic gas. What Mackay had actually said is that the DOMESTIC emissions would not be much greater with LNG. Hobson saw fit to omit that important piece of information.

        Hobson implied that my 4.7bcf EUR from the Marcellus was less accurate than the EUR figures he used from the IoD despite that my figures were from a study published in 2016 and his were from 2010 and included data going back much further than that.

        Bottom line is that this John Hobson character is very, very slippery. Do not trust one word from him!

        • Gosh! My very own ad hom attack from our resident multiple personality disordered US shill – how lovely for me!

          “He completely made up the fact that I had admitted that the 1,300 tcf OGIP figure was just a guess.”

          But Peeny you did admit that – you said “the BGS estimated 1,300 tcf GIP” – an estimate is a guess based on some assumptions. I honestly can’t be bothered to chase up every other reference you are trying to twist. Suffice it to say,, Brad Welsh,Bard Welsh, Jim Georges or whatever other ID you may be using to shill with, I am not about to take lessons in being straightforward from you. That would be like taking lessons in diplomacy from Boris Johnson or the Duke of Edinburgh (or Donald Trump might be an example you’d understand Peeny).

          Isn’t it funny though that we are not supposed to read across from America when it comes to fracking impacts, but Peeny is very keen that we read across selective data which supports his case. Things that make you go “hmmmm”.

          • John, you look weak and dysfunctional when you attack me personally. It is apparent to any objective observer that your name calling is your way of feeling like you have some power after being proven wrong so often by the facts which I put forth that undermine your arguments and promote my point of view. Keep it up! The more you try to belittle me, the weaker and weaker you look.

            • “weak and dysfunctional when you attack me personally”

              er – who was it who just posted a long rant about me? You really are very “special” Peeny.

              I really think it’s time your handler ditched, jim georges, brad welsh and bard welsh as none of your current IDs have any credibility left. Suggest to him or her that they try a new ID that doesn’t lie so blatantly and tries to base its arguments on facts. You know it makes sense. x

              I really don’t need to try to belittle a little Peeny 😉

              • When I suggested that I didn’t expect you to react so fast but honestly, setting up a new sockpuppet account called “Ballpeen Hammer” on the Johnstone Press papers was a bit too obvious. Dear oh dear!

        • By the way – perhaps you could share with us the basis on which you imagine the EA will permit 90% re-use of fracking waste, having previously stated in 2014 “the re-injection of flowback fluids at shale gas wells is not allowed.”. They have subsequently rowed back on this absolute guarantee by saying ““The Environment Agency will generally not permit the re-injection of flowback fluid for disposal into any formation”. However, the document goes on to create a loophole, by stating that “re-injection of flowback fluid for disposal is not necessarily prohibited and may be permissible where, for example, it is injected back into formations from which hydrocarbons have been extracted and will have no impact on the status of water bodies or pose any risk to groundwater.”

          So we can see they are doing their very best to make it easy on the frackers but going from no re-injection to 90% reuse seems a bit of a stretch to me 😉 I’m sure you can back up your claims though Peeny old boy.

          Then tell us how up to 13,300 m3 per well (if flowback / produced water were at the same % as at Preese Hall) will be stored on site.

  4. The complexity and difficulties working in the Bowland Basin are highlighted many times by the British Geological Survey in the official review of the report,prepared solely to advice The Department of Energy and Climate Change, on the events which took place during 6 small fracking operations at the Preese Hall well in 2011.

    There are numerous references suggesting dangers associated with any future operations

    ‘we are not convinced by the projected low probability of other earthquakes during future treatments’

    ‘The analyses failed to identify a causative fault, and knowledge of faulting in the Basin is poor. In the present state of knowledge it is entirely possible that there are critically stressed faults elsewhere in the Basin’

    ‘The reason for such high leak off is correctly indicated as probably due to extensive natural fractures’

    ‘Although some large scale structures have been mapped earthquakes in the magnitude range of 2 to 3 M require only relatively small rupture areas,and so can occur on small faults’

    There are many more similar references

    These references to the fault system become even more concerning when reading that Cuadrilla ask for the future seismic threshold to be set at 2.6M (1.7M plus 0.9M post injection magnitude increase). An astonishing request after the repercussions of triggering a 2.3M.
    This request is not accepted by the BGS but the careful wording of ‘for the next few operations’ and ‘can be adjusted over time’ puts great doubt on how long the imposed 0.5M threshold would be adhered to. It clearly questions what magnitudes would be needed for commercial purposes.

    No mitigation measures or recommendations could ever guarantee the stability of the geology of the Bowland Basin on which so much depends and common sense would suggest that if the first attempt fails then the hundreds that would follow would not pass without incident.

    It is no wonder that this has been highlighted

    Click to access 5055-preese-hall-shale-gas-fracturing-review-and-recomm.pdf

  5. Tricky now. The magicians, Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne, who promised gold standards to regulate the natural environment, seemed to have left the stage.

  6. BBC today – where were the renewables when you needed them??:

    UK electricity prices soared this week as much of the country experienced a heatwave. Why was demand for energy so high?

    You might imagine that unseasonably high temperatures in much of England and Wales – reaching 32C in London – would make the cost of energy cheaper, not more expensive. Isn’t everyone going outdoors? No-one would put the heating on in these conditions. Probably fewer cups of tea are being brewed, and more salad is being eaten.

    It doesn’t quite work like that, experts say. On Wednesday, UK wholesale electricity prices for the day ahead jumped from approximately £40 per megawatt hour to nearly £200 – the highest figure in 10 years.

    This is mostly because of limited supply, says Jim Watson, professor of energy policy at the University of Sussex. The number of gas power stations in the UK that have closed for planned maintenance is at its highest level since 2009, and several French nuclear power stations are offline limiting the amount France has to sell to the UK

    To compound matters, a cable connecting the UK’s grid with the French network is not working properly, knocking a further 0.5GW from the UK’s available supplies, and the hot spell has also coincided with a lull in winds, leading to a reduction in wind power.

    Heatwave adds to UK power squeeze

    But demand has risen, too. It’s above average for September and at its highest since April, when there were severe weather warnings in parts of the UK due to a cold snap.

    So what has driven this? The biggest factor will be air conditioning, says Watson. Normally it accounts for a much smaller proportion of electricity use in the UK than it does in countries with warmer climates, and British homes tend not to have it. Offices do however, and it is quite energy-intensive. The Carbon Trust warns that having air-conditioning can double your energy bill.

    What’s more, it runs off electricity.

    You don’t see surges of demand for electricity in the same way during cold weather, Watson says, because “most of our heating needs are gas and oil-based”.

    A lesser factor leading to the spike in electricity demand, he says, will be the extra demand placed on fridges, which consume more electricity than other household appliances because they are left on all day. They are controlled by a thermostat, which resumes cooling whenever the temperature in the fridge rises above a certain point, and this happens more often during hot weather.

    All this has lead to rises in electricity’s day-ahead price – that is, the amount generators charge to put power into the UK network the next day.

    But Watson says this shouldn’t mean vast rises in individual consumers’ energy bills. “These are prices for short-term trading,” he says. Only around a 10th of UK electricity is bought by suppliers at the day-ahead price. Suppliers sign long-term contracts with generators that cover most electricity supply in the UK.

    There have been concerns about whether there is enough capacity in the system as winter approaches, but the National Grid has said the situation is “completely manageable” and it has enough energy to keep the lights on.

    Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine’s email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox.

  7. So let’s see. People switched on their air-con…not really needed in the UK; ice cream makers upped production and folk turned up their freezers so they could fill with ice cream (not actually any use nutritionally)? Or what?

    This is a small moment in time and not really relevant to the big picture.

    A nice article from the government voice BBC to sell magazines to those who should know better.

    • But becoming more common as % renewables increases. A bit like “Scotland and Portugal being powered by renewables for a whole day”. But not the other 364 days of the year.

      I am still waiting for someone to demonstrate a cost effective, coherent and practical plan whereby we can have 100% renewables, and no fossil fuel usage for electricity generation, heating and vehicles, by 2050 in the UK. I will have no problem supporting it if it is going to work. Personally I would be happy if we could just do it for electricity generation – but I am still waiing to be told credibly how this will be……

      • The power generated by Scotland and Portugal each day has already reduced the need for fossil fuels. Great job Scotland and Portugal!

        I fear you may be left wanting for your 100% until the technology for storage is released to the world. 😉 – Morocco are having a good go with solar, well done Morocco!

        In the meantime….
        Increase in renewable production will reduce exponentially the need to burn fossil fuel. Allowing for climatic increase in temperature will reduce demand for energy. Increase in population can be offset against smarter use (insulation; use for need, not want or greed). Reduction in demand will also occur due to reduced incomes through austerity/poverty induced by this government.

        Growing a proportion of our own food will not only absorb carbon but will reduce industrialized farming, reduce fossil fuel energy burn and encasement in larger and emptier plastic containers. (The food will also taste and be better for you as there will be no additives to prolong their shelf life and the vitamins will still be there!). Also good exercise/stress buster for the ever increasing waistlines from nutrition-less mass produced foods!…oh hey, even generates heat to keep you warm!

        A little change to a better future……

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