According to Lord Oxburgh, former Chairman of Shell, “The flow rates of the majority of fracked shale gas wells halved in the first twelve months. 84% of fracking wells became uneconomic within just three years.” This is why companies have to keep drilling more and more wells just to stay in business.
This might even be an over-estimate. According to this Bloomberg report, production from wells bored into [shale gas formations] declines by 60% to 70% in the first year alone, says Allen Gilmer, chairman and chief executive officer of Drillinginfo, which tracks the performance of U.S. wells.
Why is this so important? The shale gas industry in the UK is doing everything it can to claim that fracking is almost the same as producing gas from conventional wells. Third Energy, for example, have applied for nine years’ production from their proposed test-frack well-site at Kirby Misperton, even though there is little evidence that any well, particularly a vertical well, will produce for this long.
How many fracking wells do we need in the UK?
This is the main reason for this myth. The reality is that if fracking takes place in the UK, we will need tens of thousands of wells to make any meaningful contribution to the amount of gas produced. In the words of Andy Aplin, Professor of Unconventional Petroleum at Durham University, “To recover 15% of shale gas in Lancashire would need 33,000 wells on 5,500 pads. To be independent of gas imports, we need to continue drilling 1,000 wells every year.”
In the USA there are already 1.1 million fracking wells. In Pennsylvania, there are over 10,000 wells, and this is estimated to be only 10%-25% of the number of wells that the industry estimates the state will need.
And of course if the UK became home to tens of thousands of wells, new compressor stations, gas processing plants, pipelines, new roads, it would result in the industrialisation of the countryside. And the fracking industry know that when people realise the sheer scale of the industry, and how it will change the face of the areas where fracking takes place, the opposition from local businesses, councils, residents and everyone else will be much, much stronger.
Then we come on to one of the most dangerous myths, but one that you hear time and time again …