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Foreign Interest in UK Shale Gas Steps Up

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Onshore UK looks to be on its way to becoming a major region of interest for large energy companies hoping to exploit shale gas resources after GDF Suez S.A. made a deal with Dart Energy Corp. to farm into some of Dart's licenses that cover the Bowland Basin in northwest England.

The French company's move into the Bowland shale, as well as a few of Dart's coal-bed methane projects, followed UK integrated energy firm Centrica’s own Bowland Basin deal with Cuadrilla Resources this summer.

The gigantic gas resources estimated to exist within the Bowland Basin are enough explanation on their own to justify the interest from major energy companies. The Bowland Basin is believed by the British Geological Survey to hold as much as 1,300 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of shale gas; Cuadrilla's licenses are estimated to contain some 300 Tcf while Dart is thought to be sitting on around 110 Tcf in its Bowland licenses.

However, the UK's positive political climate towards shale gas is also encouraging those international firms wanting to develop shale gas in Europe to look to the country as other European nations vacillate over drilling for unconventional hydrocarbons.

In GDF's own country, President Francois Holland (elected for a seven-year term in 2012) stated in July this year: "As long as I am president, there will be no shale gas exploration in France."

This policy by the French President might also explain why the country's leading oil and gas business, Total S.A., has also expressed an interest in the UK's burgeoning shale gas industry. Total Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie was reported at the start of October to have said that his company is in talks to take a stake in a UK project and is also considering bidding in next year's onshore licensing round.

Indeed, the Total Chief Executive called on the ban on hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in his homeland to be lifted in February this year.


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A former engineer, Jon is an award-winning editor who has covered the technology, engineering and energy sectors since the mid-1990s. Email Jon at


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