NERC joins partnership to encourage innovative shale regulation

15 January 2015

A new fund to ensure safety and sustainability are at the forefront of any drilling for shale gas and oil in the UK has been announced today by UK minister for business, enterprise & energy, Matthew Hancock.

Innovate UK logo

NERC will contribute £250k to the £2m fund led by the government's technology experts at Innovate UK.

Following an intense competition, 19 projects have been chosen. Four of these projects will use NERC funding to explore new techniques for monitoring and technologies for well drilling and design.

The four projects backed by NERC include:

  • Trolex Limited, based in Stockport, are developing a sensor capable of measuring the concentration of silica-based industrial by-products in the atmosphere.
  • Trolex Limited are also developing an emissions monitoring system, capable of early detection to prevent incidents.
  • Wardell Armstrong Limited, based in Stoke-on-Trent and around the UK, are using a non-intrusive geophysical technique called Controlled Source Electro-Magnetics to probe to depths of up to 3,000m to define shale gas layers.
  • Cascade Technologies, based in Stirling, are also developing a new type of sensor to detect methane leaks during drilling.

A 2013 study by NERC's British Geological Survey predicted that there could be 1,400 trillion cubic feet of gas in the Bowland shale. Although, recoverable reserves cannot be accurately estimated until significantly more exploration has taken place.

Government policy supports exploration for shale gas and oil in a safe and sustainable manner. A study by Ernst & Young suggests UK shale gas production could create up to 64,000 full-time equivalent jobs as well as investment and tax revenues.

UK minister for business, enterprise & energy Matt Hancock said:

Unlocking the shale gas and oil that is deep underground is an opportunity to reduce carbon emissions, increase our energy security and create jobs. It must be done safely and securely, so supporting innovation in this sector is vital to help us seize this opportunity.

Professor Duncan Wingham, chief executive of NERC, said:

Shale gas and oil have the potential to be a new energy source for the UK, helping to improve UK energy security and create jobs. NERC-supported science is crucial to ensure these are matched with a responsible approach to managing UK resources and our environment.

Rob Saunders, head of energy at Innovate UK, said:

Shale gas and oil could transform the energy sector in the UK, but for that to happen it's vital that the public have confidence in the sustainability and above all, the safety of the industry. That is where innovation plays its role and the companies that have won the very competitive process we have run here are bringing considerable expertise to tackling this problem.

Innovate UK's competition ran for five months from summer 2014. 67 companies applied, with the best 19 projects now set to receive development grants of up to £150k each. Each project will start early in 2015 and run for between 6 and 12 months. The fund will also include £1m in contributions from the Department for Energy & Climate Change (DECC).

Further information

NERC media office
01793 411561
07917 557215


1. Innovate UK is the new name for the Technology Strategy Board and is the UK's innovation agency, accelerating economic growth. Innovate UK understand that take a new idea to market is a challenge. They fund, support and connect innovative businesses through a unique mix of people and programmes to accelerate sustainable economic growth. Further information can be found at Innovate UK - external link.

2. Other companies to be awarded funding:

  • Glass Technology Services, Sheffield: Glass-based beads to keep fractures open, removing need for high-volume water use.
  • Keronite Limited, Haverhill: New 'photocatalyst' technology for safe water treatment.
  • NSG Environmental, Chorley: Mobile treatment plant to allow water to be re-cycled and re-used.
  • Tumbling Dice Limited, Newcastle-upon-Tyne: New automated systems to guide exploratory drilling processes.
  • Smart Component Technologies, Huddersfield: Innovative wireless communication technology to allow for the remote condition monitoring of wellheads in real time.
  • Concepture Limited, Surrey: Developing an innovative water management system which captures and regulates freshwater within constructed water networks across a catchment area.
  • Geomec, Norway and London: New software to collate and analyse data to provide safety and performance information for shale gas exploitation operations.
  • Kemartek Limited, Coundon, Durham: A Mechanical Vapour Recompression (MVR) plant for the decontamination of water produced by the drilling of shale gas and oil wells.
  • Advanced Defence Materials Limited, Southam, Warwickshire: New, wear-resistant titanium-based components for shale gas wells much less susceptible to corrosion.
  • National Physical Laboratory, Teddington, London: Development of a certification scheme for shale gas emission measurement techniques.
  • Aquaology Environment Limited, Bristol: Adapting electrochemical wastewater treatment to the shale gas industry.
  • M-flow Technologies Limited, Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Integrating existing microwave flow sensor technology with novel complementary sensing techniques for use in shale gas extraction.
  • Cambridge Carbon Capture Limited: Gas-scrubbing technologies that lead to the removal of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide from shale gas.
  • Process Systems Enterprise Limited, London: Feasibility study for a model-based engineering toolbox for shale gas wastewater treatment.
  • Smart Reamer Drilling Systems Limited, Slough: Allowing detailed analysis of natural fractures during drilling processes, minimising risk to efficient production and project overruns.