UK Oil & Gas Investments (UKOG) have claimed that there could be up to 100 billion barrels of oil onshore beneath Sussex in the South of England.
Even though only between 5% and 15% of the oil is expected to eventually be brought to the surface, it would still net an estimated £450billion.
UK Oil and Gas’s find may turn out to be a massive, but the environmental and political opposition to drilling in leafy Sussex is bound to be strong.
The Guardian reports: The majority of the oil was discovered when UKOG workers drilled the deepest well in the region. Sanderson said the find 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 100bn barrels of oil in place in the ground. We believe we can recover between 5% and 15% of the oil in the ground, which by 2030 could mean that we produce 10% to 30% of the UK’s oil demand from within the Weald area.”
The firm, which is working with Denver-based Magellan Petroleum, told investors more drilling and testing would be required to prove its commercial value – but that the well had “the potential for significant daily oil production”.
Senior analysts said a lot was being made of the find because of its interesting location and the fact that oil was in the public eye because of the drop in prices and the row over fossil fuels.
“Who knows at this stage whether this is a truly big discovery and how much oil is really recoverable. The City loves a frothy story like this,” said one analyst who asked not to be named.
UKOG has claimed it can extract the oil without resorting to the controversial technique of fracking, where chemicals are pumped into the ground to bring out the oil.
Keith Taylor, a Green party MEP for south-east England, said some experts disputed whether chemicals could do this and the discovery raised wider matters of concern.
“This huge oil find is the perfect opportunity for us to have an important national debate about keeping fossil fuels in the ground. The scientific consensus on climate change has never been greater and we have been told that the only way we have a chance of averting catastrophe is by leaving large reserves of oil in the ground.”
Brenda Pollack, a campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said the prospect of “dirty oil extraction” in southern England would alarm local communities and put fracking firmly on the region’s election agenda.
“Any firm proposing to drill for oil in the region knows it will face huge opposition – as happened at Balcombe, Fernhurst and Wisborough Green. Drilling proposals in Sussex have already been turned down.”
Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK, said: “Dotting the English countryside with drilling rigs and pipelines to squeeze the last drop of oil out of Britain doesn’t make any sense.
“To gleefully rub your hands at a new fossil fuel discovery you need to turn the clock back to the 19th century and ignore everything we have learned about climate change since. We already have more than enough coal, oil, and gas reserves to fry the planet.”
But Ken Cronin, chief executive of the oil industry lobby group UKOOG, said the public had no reason to be worried and he argued these kinds of finds could play a major role helping the UK’s economic recovery.