Shale gas companies are working with two British universities to investigate whether UK boreholes could be turned into deep science laboratories.
The project, led by Newcastle and Stirling Universities, is in partnership with Cuadrilla, IGas and Third Energy.
A statement from Newcastle University said the companies would share technical data on their existing deep wells onshore in the UK.
Since 2010, Cuadrilla has drilled for shale gas at five sites near Blackpool in Lancashire. The most recent drilling was at Preston New Road, where fracking in 2018 and 2019 caused small earthquakes and prompted a moratorium on the process in England.
IGas drilled recent shale gas wells in Nottinghamshire: one at Tinker Lane in 2018 and one at Misson Springs in 2019. The Tinker Lane well has been abandoned and the site restored. IGas has also drilled into the Bowland shale at Ellesmere Port, in Cheshire, and Irlam, in Salford.
Third Energy had planned to frack its Kirby Misperton well, KM8, in North Yorkshire in 2017 but did not receive government consent. The company is now piloting new plugging and abandonment techniques in other wells in the area.
Announcing funding for the work, Newcastle University said the project would report on the technical feasibility, costs and challenges for repurposing deep wells. It would consider whether they could be used for research on carbon capture and storage, geothermal energy and hydrogen storage.
It said researchers would carry out a systematic review of:
- construction and status of existing shale gas wells
- geology at the well sites
- potential candidates for repurposing
The researchers would also establish strategies for local community engagement. The statement added:
“Vitally, this project will engage with stakeholders and communities and collate their views on using existing oil and gas infrastructure for science and technology advancement in the delivery of low carbon energy.”