Canterbury debate: Gerwyn Williams

Chair of UK Onshore Gas Group, which holds PEDL licences in south Wales, Somerset and Kent. Chair of an investment company raising money to extract unconventional hydrocarbons. Coastal Oil and Gas, one Mr Williams’ companies applied for planning permission last year for wells in Kent but later withdrew the applications.

Edited transcript of his presentation

I have been in unconventional gas for 20 years in the UK. I worked for 22 years for British coal. We had our first licence in 1993 for coal bed methane before British Coal as it was then was privatised.

I would say the title [of this event] should be “Should fracking be allowed to carry on in the UK because there is nothing new about fracking in the UK. Fracking has been going on onshore in the UK for the last 60 years. There has been some 2,000 plus wells drilled onshore and about 10% of those have been fracked so in the last 60 years about 200 onshore wells have been fracked without any problems. No-one has ever heard in the last 55 years about fracking. It has been going on quite comfortably.

People always relate fracking to shale gas and fracking is used for all sorts of things, not only getting unconventional gas out of the ground, you can get oil out of the ground by fracking. Fracking has been used for years in water works. If we drilled a water well we would use the same casing, the same drill rig, the same tooling, the same drilling fluids as we use to drill an unconventional gas well. And quite often that well would be fracked to get more water back to the well.

In mining, fracking can be used to cave-in when you are cutting coal and you have a big big void and along the width of that void you have to stimulate the roof to make it fall. So you could frack that roof to induce rock cave-in.

It is used to dispose of waste into the earth’s surface. And very importantly, fracking is used in geothermal wells. When we drill geothermal wells to get heat from the ground, those wells are often fracked.

It’s also used for sequestrating CO2. If you had a coal-fired [electricity generating] station and it’s a sequestration station where we can take the CO2 from the coal burning process, inject that underground then fracking would be used to get that underground. So although fracking is often associated with shale gas and unconventional gas it is not the only thing it is used for.

So the title is a bit misleading because fracking is not only associated with shale gas. You have to ask yourselves are we trying to stop fracking or are we trying to stop shale gas.

Over the past five years, technology has changed dramatically. Technology related to directional drilling is very advanced now, so advanced now that drill rigs in this country can be steered by a satellite from different parts of Europe. 3D seismic has advanced a lot over the past five years. Very deep areas can be shown up in 3D seismic. And that is having a big influence on the way shale gas wells are stimulated.

So why do we frack? If you go into the ground at depth, the heavier overburden compacts the rocks, so what we have to do is make micro cracks in the rocks to allow the gas to flow back to the wellbore. The optimum target depth that we would look for is 10,000ft deep, about 3km, and we would drill out over a mile.

Shale is not like coal. Coal comes in seams about 18 inches to three metres thick and 3m is a good thick seam in the UK. We have picked up information from numerous boreholes throughout the country and we have found in one set of shales [in south Wales] was 490ft thick.

We have drilled six wells so far. We have drilled five exploration wells and one production well. We’ve never had an objector on site. Sometimes we’ve never even bothered to put security outside. That has all changed in recent years since Balcombe came round in the summer a few years ago. The whole industry has changed. And I think it has changed for the worst.

There are two arguments I would like kto see for this evening.

  1. Should fracking be allowed to continue in the UK?
  2. Should fracking be allowed in Kent?

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