Natural gas under London. Let’s look!

This project is going to take up most of my time both, here and at a new site coming soon. Any questions? Get in touch. Guru at nohotair.co.uk

We have much to say and this will be the first of a series that will answer the following  questions, and many more, in detail over coming weeks and months.  For now, all we can do is think, but ultimately we will act. It will be a great journey.  This is just the first step. Please get in touch with any further questions and we’ll do our best to answer them.

Q: Why should we explore for natural gas under London?

A: Natural gas is the fuel seven and half million Londoners depend upon at home for heating, a use for which there is no currently available viable alternative.  For example, a new or replacement central heating system is installed, in London alone, every 40 seconds of a fifty hour working week. Even under the  Zero Carbon London  2050 plan, natural gas will continue to provide 49% of London’s energy.  We think that is too high a figure. We think we can leverage natural gas to exceed both London’s energy and clean air plans: Sooner, Bigger, Better.

Q: Shouldn’t we just leave gas in the ground?

A:  We should leave gas in the ground. But not the gas under our feet, if it can be discovered. We can only discover through scientific enquiry and exploration.  If exploration leads to discovery, we intend to portray importing natural gas to London as indefensible as importing milk from Russia, bread from Texas or water from Qatar.

Q:  What is the climate change impact of using locally sourced natural gas from under our feet compared to the alternatives?

A: This is a key question for us. If we are to continue to  use natural gas, then the best choice for our city and the planet is to use London natural gas, which would be the lowest carbon natural gas on earth.  That’s a great hope for our home, the greatest city in the world. The key word is “could”. We may not. But if we don’t look the answer will  only be in the negative. We’re the liberal metropolitan elite too. We shop in Waitrose or Whole Food. Our carbon footprint isn’t empty words. It’s what we do. We cannot wait for solutions that may never come. We are the enemy of no other technology except coal. There’s room for everyone. But the perfect cannot be made the enemy of the good.

Q: How big a project would this be? Won’t it take up too much space in somewhere as crowded as London?

A: London is not only crowded, it’s  expensive. We wouldn’t even consider this project if we didn’t believe there would be any more than minimal surface footprint.  Development would be inconspicuous to 99.9% of Londoners.  Our exploration proposal includes one drilling rig half as tall again as a double decker bus.  After preparation of the site in any number of brownfield locations, we would be finished in as little as ten days – or less.

Q:  Won’t this mean investment takes funds away from renewable sources?

A: No. Let’s not put the production cart before the exploration horse. Our exploration stage, precisely because it will take place in a developed area, will be far cheaper than exploration in sensitive habitats off-shore, in pristine forests or deserts. For example, if  the resource was discovered, the delivery system for gas in London already exists.  It won’t  be as easy as taking gas out of one hole in the ground and simply putting it in another.  But it wouldn’t present any serious or expensive issues either.  This could well be the shortest route to market of any natural gas project on earth.  It won’t be up to us what to do with the tax revenue from natural gas, but others might  consider how it could at least partially  accelerate renewable investment.  London uses 9 billion cubic metres of gas per year, almost none of which is  used to generate electricity.  The current value of £1,350,000,000 ($1.65 billion) could pay tax of 50% or more.  We think a potential annual income for the UK and London of £675 million wouldn’t ordinarily be dismissed in the best of times.

Q: Natural gas under London? Isn’t that ridiculous?

A: We’ll share our geology with investors under a standard confidentiality agreement. We will shortly release enough detail to not only reassure the public, but also to excite them.  We don’t want Londoners to simply be acquiescent or accepting of the project.  We want Londoners to be excited about it.

Q: Is this just some kind of publicity stunt?

A:  This is a joint effort of myself and several others who we will be introducing  over the next few weeks.  They have world-wide  experience in exploring for oil and gas.  Others are academic geologists of impeccable and proven reputation. They share our excitement over how we may have uncovered an entirely new oil and gas province literally underfoot.  A location nowhere more exotic or environmentally sensitive – or expensive – than within London Underground Zone 3.

Background

In 2014, London Local Energy, a company I was involved with but which is now reforming,  applied to what was then Department of Energy and Climate Change,  now the Oil and Gas Authority ,to explore for oil and gas in three 100 SQ KM blocks under London.  Two were in North West London in the 14th Onshore Licensing Round.  The UK government is the owner of the resource, one of the few domestic assets that was never privatised.

Significantly one block  was in South Central London, centred on the London Borough of Merton.  Even though we considered it almost as an afterthought, it was also of interest to another company.  Perhaps gas under London isn’t such a romantic idea after all?  On this map, the green lines  reflect seismic exploration lines of which there are almost none under London.  One tool we  will use is reflection seismology  or even less intrusive methods to see what lies beneath us.

The other company was given at least ten licenses elsewhere in England. We assume they had applied for other licenses in South London.  But neither we nor them were offered the London licenses, a situation without precedent in the UK.  We also have reason to believe that they also applied for licenses under Oxford and Swindon, where they were similarly unsuccessful.  Yet they weren’t given those licenses  either, despite being considered fit and proper enough to be given them in rural areas.  Shale demonstrators in Northern England may well have a point when they feel they are are asked to bear the brunt of  shale gas exploration. It’s a complex matter and the London decision doesn’t stink of hypocrisy to us.  But there is at least a whiff of it.

I only recently found out about the other company and the unprecedented situation where both companies were denied licenses.  If I had known this  detail in 2015 when the LLE licenses were denied, I would certainly have considered  legal action against the OGA.  The value of the resource would be at least $250 million dollars based on a very conservative 5 million barrels of recoverable conventional oil. But this isn’t only about money.  Investors were constantly told, even before Brexit that “Britain is open for Business”.  Yet what I told the Parliamentary Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change six (!) years ago still applies:

.Q183  Christopher Pincher: That is the United States. Do you anticipate the need for a subsidy here to encourage UK drilling?

Nick Grealy: No. With respect, from what I see of the activities of your Committee, you are used to a large amount of people coming here and saying, “We need a subsidy for CCS, we need a subsidy for wind, we need a subsidy for nuclear” and so on. The shale gas industry wants to give you money. It wants to participate. ….. This is where shale is unique, in that nobody is here with their hand out. 

The nation, and our city are under unprecedented challenges over both climate change and Brexit.  The United Kingdom must be unique.  One has to consider legal action in order to invest in it.  Some may find it ironic that we have also been advised to consider legal action against the government on climate change grounds.

One of the great things about London is how in the marketplace of ideas we constantly meet people and ideas bounce off and provide positive energy.  That has made us even more confident today of what could be possible, for London, the UK and most importantly  the planet.  That’s another reason why we’re going public now.  Not everyone will agree with us, but we also know many will support us and enrich the project with new ideas.

Using other people’s natural gas in our central heating not only enriches other governments instead of our own, it places prosperous Londoners in direct competition for  gas with any number of countries who won’t be able to afford the transition from coal to gas if we outbid them. That’s simply not fair.

We can’t predict what impact producing gas on local prices will be. It is very unlikely that if we produce gas, it will make it more expensive.

The absence of proof that there is gas under London is not proof of its absence.  Given the technology and economics of a hundred years ago,  it would have been impossible to produce gas or oil. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there.  And if it was there then, its still there today. Yet today, what was once called unconventional gas is now the new normal.  Yesterday’s breakthrough quickly becomes the mainstream of today.   Those techniques already promise an entirely new paradigm of natural gas production for London if geology allows.  The same methods improve every day.

Many oil fields were discovered because farmers were looking for water.  In London, we haven’t had farms for over two hundred years. We have had a history of laundries:

Historical oil and gas fields all over the world are being reassessed with 21st century technology. Except in London.

We think  it is morally indefensible to refuse to even  explore for oil and gas resources under London.  We agree with  Nick Hurd MP, the Climate Change Minister.

“I look at shale gas through the lens of energy security.

“It is primarily an energy security issue for me. We import a lot of gas. If we have the capacity to generate our own gas in this country and we can do it while reassuring people about the impact on the environment, personally, I think it would be irresponsible to future generations not to answer the question can we do it.”

Nick Hurd is the MP for a portion of the area we’d like to explore under.  If we find anything, then we can all decide -or not – whether to leave it in the ground. The most important partners are those who use natural gas. Under UK law, they, and everyone else, also own the gas.  That makes the decision to explore a national, as well as local issue.

One reason I haven’t gone public before on this was the chance that someone would, to use an old oil and gas business term, jump our claim.  But all oil and gas projects need partners, so together we can make it work. We want to just do it.

A fundamental part of the challenge in the UK and EU is to gain public acceptance.  Going public now is a key part of our strategy,  and telescoping the acceptance process makes sound commercial  sense.

One final question:

Q: What’s stopping you?

The Oil and Gas Authority have no current plans to open the next license round (for the entire UK).  We’ve asked them on several occasions when we can expect the process to open -to no avail. Ordinarily onshore license rounds take place every two years.  There was a gap between 2008 and 2014. We’re past due for the next license round, one we aim to be successful in.  It may, or may not be helpful to ask the OGA the following question:

When will the 15th Onshore Oil and Gas Licensing Round take place?

We hope you have better luck.  After all, when it comes to exploring for the lowest carbon natural gas on earth,  one thing is clear:

We Want What You Want. 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Natural gas under London. Let’s look!”

  1. First you suggested ‘Drill Local First ‘ as a campaign slogan for shale gas industry. Now you go on an anti fracking website to suggest drill London too. I think you let your inflated intellectual ego got the better of you with the help of the anti fracking brigades themselves. You are not doing any service to the struggle of getting shale acceptance.

  2. The anti fracking people have many valid concerns about climate, and they deserve to be listened to. One should listen to others. Preaching to the choir isn’t too helpful, and is wasteful too. The old rule applies: Keep your friends closer and your enemies closer.
    Where they don’t have concerns are about the environmental impact of shale itself, and the chief concern is of an industrialised countryside.
    I’m not at all suggesting that one should do shale in London instead of other areas, but there are two lessons others can learn:
    One is that if London isn’t going to be industrialised (simply because it’s physically impossible) then their community shouldn’t have anything to fear either. That helps both side
    The second is to get people to stop obsessing about the process and start worrying about the product they use everyday, which increasingly, from imports is high carbon and zero tax.
    .

  3. Nick. You are obviously know the in and out of the shale industry. But you obviously make the mistake of thinking everyone else is as intelligent as you on the subject to appreciate and comprehend your logic point. In fact most will ignore logic if it is not in their interests. Especially when they are still skeptical of a contentious issue.
    Just like medicine it is good for people but people dont want to take it. And so if you force it down their throat at large population all at oncewill think you are nut irresponsible and gung-ho. Not Until you demonstrate that it is safe and effective in large population. Only when fracking is demonstrated to be safe in pilot site such as lancashire and Yorkshire then people will see the point clearer. Otherwise you will be seen as recklessly pushing your agenda. The nimby attitudes against fracking in country folk is already alive and well and with your personal endeavor it will be seen as reckless and stir up more nimby from city folks who I bet more self serving than most country folk. I personally think this is a disservice to the struggling shale industry at this point in time. Sorry but the old oilman technical prowess attitude do not fit the modern PR games these days.

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