A UK-based exploration company whose management team has unconventional exploration experience in the United States claims to have discovered a natural gas shale field near Blackpool, in Lancashire, England, that may rival rock in the United States.

Cuadrilla Resources Ltd. claimed that there may be 200 Tcf of gas in place in the Bowland Basin. The figure hasn't been independently verified, and Cuadrilla said only a small percentage of the probable reserves is likely to be extracted. However, current estimates for UK shale gas potential are about 4.2 Tcf.

Cuadrilla Executive Director Dennis Carlton said initial results indicate that the Bowland Basin may be five to 10 times thicker than the Marcellus Shale.

More testing on the Bowland Basin is needed, but if the estimates prove accurate, the UK discovery could rival those in Poland, where several major explorers already have planted stakes.

Cuadrilla began drilling for natural gas at its first location, Preese Hall 1, about five miles east of Blackpool, in August 2010. The first phase of exploration was completed last December, which involved drilling a vertical exploratory well with total depth of about 9,000 feet. Phase two began last spring to stimulate rocks surrounding parts of the vertical well using hydraulic fracturing.

Cuadrilla was formed in 2007 as a privately held exploration and production company "focused on bringing together unconventional oil and gas explorers, developers and technologists to unlock trapped resource plays in selected parts of Europe." Its multinational executive team has years of experience working in onshore unconventional plays.

Carlton was a founder and COO of U.S.-based Evergreen Resources prior to its $2.1 billion acquisition in 2004 by Pioneer Natural Resources. Among other things, Carlton is credited for helping to develop the Raton Basin coalbed methane field in southeastern Colorado.

CEO Mark Miller, a former Schlumberger Ltd. executive, graduated from Pennsylvania State University. He is the former president of Eastern Reservoir Service, a U.S.-based well testing company, which was acquired by UTI Inc. (now Patterson-UTI Energy Inc.) in 2005. And COO Eric Vaughn is the former U.S. and European regional manager for NOWSCO Well Service, which was acquired by BJ Services Co., now owned by Baker Hughes Inc.

Cuadrilla is owned by its management team and two investors, AJ Lucas and Riverstone LLC. Lucas is a global engineering and construction firm. Energy equity firm Riverstone has investments in companies across North America.

As to why it concentrates its exploration efforts in the United Kingdom, Cuadrilla said on its website that a decline in production from the North Sea has seen the country become a net importer of gas since 2004 and of crude oil since 2005.

"This means that the country is set to become increasingly reliant on international energy markets to meet its energy needs -- leaving the country vulnerable to price volatility and disruptions in supply," the company said. "As a relatively untapped energy resource, natural gas from shale has significant potential to boost the UK's gas production, reduce the UK's dependency on foreign energy sources and lower gas prices."