Published On: Sat, Apr 11th, 2015

‘Billions’ of barrels of oil found in UK but difficult to tap

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Experts agree that only a fraction of the oil in shale rock formations can be extracted.

The discovery of up to 100 billion barrels of oil near Gatwick airport could produce 10 to 30 per cent of the UK’s oil demand by 2030, according to exploration firm UK Oil & Gas Investments (UKOG).

Exploration near the Horse Hill area of West Sussex has revealed that the area could hold up to 158 million barrels of oil per square mile.

“We think we’ve found a very significant discovery here, probably the largest [onshore in the UK] in the last 30 years, and we think it has national significance,” Stephen Sanderson, UKOG’s chief executive, told the BBC.

Sanderson said the discovery would “comprehensively change the understanding of the area’s potential oil resources”. He added: “Based on what we’ve found here, we’re looking at between 50 and 100 billion barrels of oil in place in the ground.

The U.K. has identified three potential reservoirs of onshore oil and gas as it seeks to get in on the shale oil boom that has made the U.S. the world’s top energy producer. While U.S. developers have relied on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to break up the shale and release energy deposits, UK Oil & Gas says the Weald Basin is “naturally fractured” and so can be tapped using conventional drilling techniques.

Developers have been able to recover from 3 percent to 15 percent of the oil present in areas that are geologically similar to the Weald Basin, Sanderson said. Another complication may be opposition to large-scale drilling in a basin that stretches across 4,180 square miles (10,825 square kilometers) of southern England.

“Some of the most prospective plays are in environmentally sensitive areas, in National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or under towns and villages,” the British Geological Study said in its report. “Shale oil exploration and potential development should progress cautiously to ensure the activity is safe and the environment is properly protected.”

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