Over the next few weeks, we will be...
After years of research, Rathlin Energy (UK) in 2008 requested permission to explore for oil and gas in east Yorkshire. That summer the Department of Energy and Climate Change awarded Rathlin a licence (PEDL 183) to search for oil and gas north of the Humber from west of Beverley to the North Sea in the east. This area of east Yorkshire is crossed by pipelines carrying gas from the North Sea and Europe to fuel the energy needs of the population and industry locally and beyond in England and Wales. Gas is also stored underground for the UK market at Aldbrough by SSE and Statoil and near Hornsea by SSE.
Rathlin Energy has carried out a series of studies collecting geological and geophysical information, including new seismic surveys, 2D and 3D; all designed to develop a better understanding of the sub-surface geology to determine where oil and gas could be found. Plans to test these ideas by exploratory drilling are in hand.
Since the 1700s, there has been an active coal mining industry to the west in the Yorkshire and Notts coalfields. Before the Second World War the search for oil progressed over the region, with discoveries of oil and later gas. This gave rise a local oil industry with oil fields to the south (for example at Earkring and Gainsborough) and more recently gas from Saltfleetby in Lincs and Pickering and Eskdale further north in Yorkshire. All resulted from programmes of geophysical surveys and drilling over the last 50 years. Rathlin are continuing this work.
The geological make up and evolution of this part of Yorkshire is similar to the North Sea that has produced gas only 30 miles to the east. Onshore, slight differences mean that prospective structures are different and more subtle, but the modern geophysical techniques used by Rathlin should locate them. New geophysical data followed by exploratory drilling should prove them.
Geologically, the oil and gas were produced by source rocks of Carboniferous age, 300 to 330 million years old as they were buried under south Yorkshire beneath the weight of younger rocks. The same source rocks are found at the surface to the west in the old coal mining areas and in Derbyshire. Once formed, the oil or gas moved up and away from the source and were trapped in porous rocks, sealed by thick impermeable strata. Either these porous rocks are sandstones, deposited in tropical rivers & deltas of Carboniferous age; or they may be porous reef limestones of younger (250 million years) Permian rocks, similar to those at the surface just west of Doncaster. It is these rock layers that are now at 1 to over 2 kilometres deep (0.6 to 1.6 miles). New planned drilling will target both. Hundreds of wells have been drilled to similar depths in nearby Lincolnshire and Yorkshire over the last six decades; thousands have been drilled offshore in the North Sea.
New geo-scientific studies and data collection by Rathlin is continuing in the licence area. At the beginning of 2011, the collection of geophysical (3D) data in the area of Walkington was completed and its analysis produced encouraging results to embark on new geophysical surveys at other locations across the area: near Ottringham, Garton and Lund. Planning is also well underway to make the first exploration drilling early in 2012.
Yorkshire source point drilling rig 2010/11 3D seismic programme
The information gathered by the geophysical and drilling work in the coming months will give Rathlin’s geo-scientists and engineers invaluable and unique insights to other structures already identified as potential sites of trapped oil and or gas for local consumers and industry.