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UK oil discovery near Gatwick Airport said to be of national significance

09 April 2015

Operator UK Oil & Gas (UKOG) said on April 9 an exploratory well in Southern England showed great promise. Analysis of results from the test well at Horse Hill, Surrey, near London’s Gatwick Airport, has led to the company forecasting reserves of between 50 and 100 billion barrels of oil in place beneath the South of England.

The Surrey village of Charlwood, one mile from the Horse Hill site
The Surrey village of Charlwood, one mile from the Horse Hill site

"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.

UKOG says that the majority of the oil lies within the Upper Jurassic Kimmeridge formation at a depth of between 2,500ft (762m) and 3,000ft (914m). Company analysis suggests the local area could hold 158 million barrels of oil per square mile.

It describes this as a "world class potential resource" and that the well has the "potential for significant daily oil production". Compared with similar geology in the US and West Siberia, it estimates that 3% to 15% of the 100 billion barrel total could be recovered.

In comparison, the North Sea has produced about 45 billion barrels in 40 years.

Small quantities of oil have been produced onshore in the South of England for decades. There are currently around a dozen oil production sites across the Weald, a region spanning Kent, Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire.

Last year, a report for the government by the British Geological Survey estimated that the region may have shale oil resources in the range of 2.2-to-8.5 billion barrels, with a central estimate of 4.4 billion barrels of oil.

UKOG said  that it drilled the deepest well in the region in the last 30 years and that the results comprehensively change the understanding of the area's potential oil resources, adding that the Weald could be producing between 10% and 30% of the UK's oil demand by 2030.

Work at Imperial College in London also suggests that there may be more oil in the region than previously thought, with a possible resource of 40 billion barrels in the Weald.

UKOG says that the oil at Horse Hill is held in rocks that are naturally fractured, which means the reservoirs can be successfully produced using conventional horizontal drilling and completion techniques.

This means that fracking, which involves pumping water, sand and chemicals into rocks at high pressure to liberate the oil and gas trapped within, will not be required at this site.

Concerns over fracking led to large-scale protests when Cuadrilla drilled at a nearby site at Balcombe, West Sussex, in 2013.

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