UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources


Jabraan Ahmed

Thesis title: Towards sustainable and risk free gas production from an unconventional source

Shale gas – a new, unconventional source of energy - has already significantly shifted the balance between producers and consumers towards countries that otherwise have very few gas reserves. 

It is widely predicted to be the largest contributor to growth in natural gas production in many countries around the world over the next several decades. 

Shale rock has significant porosity (6 – 12%) but exceptionally low permeability (ability to allow fluid flow) due to a microstructure that comprises a significant proportion of platy clay minerals. This means that the gas is trapped within the shale matrix. 

Economic production of shale gas therefore requires artificially increasing the gas flow by in-situ hydraulic fracturing using high pressure fluids charged with chemicals and sand (a process commonly known as “fracking”).

However, despite this bright outlook, there are many challenges facing production in a sustainable and environmentally acceptable manner from this massive resource (approximately 17,000 Trillion Cubic Feet (TCF) of proven/probable reserves worldwide, distributed across all continents; equivalent to total UK energy consumption for approximately 2000 years).

This project aims to address these issues by developing experimental methods and models to understand how basin-wide changes in sediment properties, composition, organic maturity and mechanical resistance to fracture propagation control both the response of the shale reservoir rocks to the stresses imposed by the fracking process and the resulting gas flow.

The project will address the problem systematically using a scale-integrated approach; from characterization of the clay nano-particles that block gas flow, through sedimentological and geochemical analysis of shale composition and micro- porosity, and shale permeability anisotropy and fracture resistance at the meso-scale, to reservoir scale issues of potential pollutant contamination risk, design of low-risk, environmentally acceptable fracking strategies and gas yield analysis.


Jabraan graduated from UCL in 2012 having undertaken an MSci in Geology. Much of the focus of his degree specialised in the deep Earth and mineral physics. This includes his master’s project in which he predicted the atomic structure of Nickel Silicide in the cores of terrestrial planetary bodies through high pressure and temperature experiments. The project also unearthed a previously unknown structure of Nickel Silicide.  

In the summers of his undergrad, Jabraan had a number of work placements and internships in oil industry companies including CGG Veritas, RPS Energy and Neftex Petroleum Consultants. These experiences led to his long term interest in the energy sector and new emerging sources of fuel making UCL ISR an ideal choice to further pursue research. His PhD is on the topic of Shale Gas extraction and is a collaborative study across several UCL departments: ISR, ES, LCN and IRDR.