More than 100 ideas to crack barriers to unlock hard-to-recover gas in the Southern North Sea (SNS) emerged from ‘disruptive thinking’ at an event in the East of England.

Diverse solutions from the 85 industry delegates included a data-sharing ‘Frackapedia’, offshore ‘enterprise zones’ to incentivise testing new offshore drilling technology and inventing clay-eating creatures to eliminate illites, the crystalline mineral which blocks permeability.

Other ideas included changing rock properties to challenge the physical constraints to increase gas, adopting a campaign and consortium approach with an independent project manager and creating incentives for operators to collaborate were other ideas.

Operators, supply chain companies, service providers and academics gathered at the Tight Gas Hackathon at Dunston Hall Hotel, near Norwich for “blue sky” problem-solving for issues deterring operators going for the “prize” of the 3.8 tcf of gas locked in tight reservoirs in the SNS.

The event – organised by the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR) under the direction of the Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) – identified an urgent need to share data and research between companies and countries and working together to secure the industry’s longevity in the SNS.

The idea sharing sessions were facilitated by Centrica’s Pioneering Practitioners, a team trained to encourage collaboration and draw out innovative ideas, and experts in the five focus area: stimulation, technology, reservoirs, production and logistics.

Delegates were told to forget rules that prevented tight gas extraction in order to think of transformational ideas and technologies.

Eric Marston, OGA Area Manager Southern North Sea and East Irish Sea, said the event was the “start of the journey”, following the formation of a Tight Gas Work Group in recent months, involving a number of operators and supply chain companies with interests in the SNS.

There is 3.8 tcf of gas across the SNS categorised as tight. “There is a significant prize for companies to access,” Mr Marston said.

“Activity levels amongst operators with tight gas opportunities is on the increase. It is challenging work – difficult and expensive, but there is a clear appetite to unlock this remaining potential in the SNS.”

“OGA will work with operators such that they have the best chance to bring these remaining gas volumes to market.”

Mr Marston announced that OGA’s Tight Gas Strategy would be published at the end of this month and called on industry to continue working closely together.

Malcolm Banks, of the Oil and Gas Technology Centre, who led the technology session with Centrica’s Asset Manager for the Southern North Sea, asset manager Carla Riddell, said: “We need to think out of our natural flow. We need to be disruptive when it comes to technology and the different sort of solutions moving forward.”

He was joined be experts Marc Langford, from Centrica, Quentin Fisher, of Leeds University and Muhammad Danyaal and Tosh McIntosh, both from Premier Oil.

The Tight Gas Work Group of EEEGR’s SNS Rejuvenation Special Interest Group will work in the coming weeks with the ideas generated from the Tight Gas Hackathon and define the next steps to be taken to unlock tight gas in the SNS. The Work Group consists of representatives from Shell, Baker Hughes, Centrica, Fraser Offshore, Premier Oil, and the OGA.