UK oil and gas reserves could run out within the next decade

Courtney Goldsmith
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Is the sun setting on UK oil and gas? (Source: Getty)

The UK could soon be forced to import all the oil and gas it needs as new research suggests the country’s reserves may only last a decade more.

A study of output from offshore fields by the University of Edinburgh estimated that just around 10 per cent of the UK’s original recoverable oil and gas remains in place.

The study, published by the Edinburgh Geological Society, also found fracking, the process used to extract gas from shale deposits, will be “barely economically feasible” in the UK because of a lack of sites with suitable geography.

Researchers warned that if the study’s predictions are correct, the UK will soon have to import the oil and gas it needs to make up for the shortfall.

They recommend moving towards a greater use of renewable energy sources, particularly offshore wind and advanced solar technologies.

Read more: The price of new offshore wind power has halved

The university's analysis of hydrocarbon reserves showed discoveries have consistently lagged behind output since the point of peak oil recovery in the late 1990s and predicts both oil and gas will run out within a decade.

"The UK urgently needs a bold energy transition plan, instead of trusting to dwindling fossil fuel reserves and possible fracking," said Roy Thomson, a professor at Edinburgh's school of geosciences.

"We must act now and drive the necessary shift to a clean economy with integration between energy systems. There needs to be greater emphasis on renewables, energy storage and improved insulation and energy efficiencies."

Deirdre Michie, chief executive of Oil & Gas UK, said there are up to 20bn barrels of oil and gas still to be recovered in the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) in the North Sea based on production forecasts from the Oil and Gas Authority.

“Production has increased over the last two years and we expect that to continue to rise. Significant new capacity has been added to the UKCS... Advances in technologies are also presenting fresh opportunities and helping make discoveries commercially viable," Michie said.

“To ensure the remaining potential of the UKCS is realised, we need to keep operating costs low, bring in new investment and maintain a relentless focus on exploration and enhanced recovery.

Read more: The tide is turning for North Sea oil and gas

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