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Tuesday 11 December 2012

Delingpole Shale Homework Fail

Have you heard of Nick Grealy? Maybe not, but anyone involved with the continuing arguments over the practicality and economics of shale gas knows him: Grealy is a veritable disciple for it. He has the modestly titled Twitter handle of @ShaleGasExpert. Moreover, he is feted by the so-called Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), which is dedicated to, er, rubbishing global warming.

So it should surprise no-one that Grealy is also quoted approvingly by James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole, who has lauded Grealy’s riposte to the Observer’s Andrew Rawnsley. The latter had dubbed shale gas enthusiasts “frack-heads” in a comment piece at the weekend, and was less than approving of the UK’s prospects for viable shale gas exploitation.

Subtle, isn't he?

Cue Grealy, to pour scorn on Rawnsley, although he also lauded Bozza’s whopper strewn column on shale gas from yesterday. And there is a clear contradiction in Grealy’s own piece, where he talks of shale gas resources “having been under the ground for 450 million years”, and then shows in a comparison chart that the Bowland shale has a probable age of 327 million years.

But the Grealy trump card is in his comparison of the thickness of shale beds between known US and Canada fields and the Bowland shale in the UK. He notes that the North American shales are between 150 and 450 feet think, and then claims that the Bowland shale is “Over 6000 [feet thick] in [the] basin centre”. He cites a study on the Transform website as his source.

That study does indeed report shale bed thicknesses of between 150 and 450 feet for North American fields. But it does not so much as mention the Bowland shale. This is an eyebrow raising omission, given that Grealy gives the impression that the presentation comes from the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), although they have estimated the thickness of the Bowland shale elsewhere.

In a report from 2011, the DECC goes into detail for the gross and net thickness of the Bowland shale beds (the latter is the potentially productive part). And the conclusion? “The organic rich, net thickness ... ranges between 0-110m”. So that’s a maximum of around 350 feet, and a potential average of much less. Why would the DECC publish that figure and then another making the “over 6000 feet thick” one?

It goes without saying that Delingpole will not have bothered to delve even this far, having heard the news he wants to hear. Maybe Nick Grealy will be able to point the more sceptical observer of his pronouncements to an authoritative source which backs them up. Because the impression is given that there is at least an inconsistency in the information that is being cited and presented.

I await the definitive answer from @ShaleGasExpert.

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