UCL Department of Chemical Engineering


The role of unconventional energy resources in the energy mix for the future

4 May 2021

Collated images of shale, geothermal Energy and coal – Photos by Devon Janse van Rensburg, Matt Palmer and Klim Musalimov on Unsplash

The Paris Agreement in 2015 set out to limit global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, with a focus on transiting to renewable energy significantly by 2030. In the interim period, with diminishing conventional energy resources, unconventional energy such as shale gas (SG) and coal seam gas (CSG) may have to be utilised, taking into account their fit in the energy mix of the different countries, as well as the efficiency of their extraction with minimum environmental footprint.

Hannah Marsden, a student from the M.Sc in Global Management of Natural Resources programme (GMNR) in Chemical Engineering, supervised by Drs. Sudeshna Basu (CE, UCL) and Melanie MacGregor (UNISA, Australia),  investigated if nanotechnology could be applied to hydraulic fracturing of coal seams in Australia. A few applications were identified with potential to enhance productivity and reduce the migration of the fraccing fluids to the surrounding water formation.  But, from the same study it was noted that such applications need to be cautious due to lack of field tests under reservoir conditions. Currently, GMNR student Juliet Snow is investigating the potential applications of nanotechnology for treatment of CSG produced water in Queensland, Australia

Dr. S. Basu is supervising a group of GMNR students for their dissertation projects on various other aspects of CSG and SG. The findings from these projects will have implications towards an efficient transition to renewable energy in the future. The projects include investigating the risks of hydraulic fracturing towards groundwater contamination in Bowland Shale Formation UK and, carbon dioxide storage potential of gas shales in China from the Sichuan Basin that hosts 40% of the country’s shale resources. The students will apply relevant findings from SG and CSG to the potential application of hydraulic fracturing for deep geothermal energy.