Undiscovered until a few years ago, the southern England area known as The Weald contains a largish lake of crude oil! The area just south of London spreads for around 3,500 square miles and includes Gatwick, one of London’s prime airports. Thanks to evolution and apparently the fact that Africa rammed into Europe causing several mountain ranges and folds in the surface, of which this is one, it caused animals and plants to be trapped when they died and to be squashed and heated to form a carbon liquid.
Estimated suggest that there could be as much as 8.5B barrels of oil there, that is the equivalent of 1,100 tonnes. However there is a catch (isn’t there always) and the engineers think that using today’s technology with the current price per barrel, the useable amount is only around 220 million barrels.
Britain uses 500 million barrels of oil a year, so this would represent 6 months or so usage. A lot of that is imported so many companies are interested in using advanced fracking techniques to extract as much as possible.
Environmentalists are naturally concerned, this is prime land for conservation and fracking could destroy the ecology of the area. The Government doesn’t seem to share their concerns as they have already licensed several areas to exploration companies who are naturally keen to get started. The price of oil though favours the environmentalists and Greenpeace. With the price of oil dropping, it makes these types of discoveries unviable.
As the story developed through 2015 though, the main exploration company increased its forecast of the amount that they could potentially extract. In November, Angus Energy announced that it was going to float on the stock market to raise enough capital to start drilling. With the higher estimates comes a different set of technologies for extraction and therefore higher output. Angus believes that even with low oil prices, they can still extract a barrel for $15 which would give them a good margin after all other costs are considered.
UKOG, the UK Oil and Gas Investment company who originally announced the find in 2014 is busy gobbling up licences from other companies taking around 30% of the quota. This is despite reporting hefty losses for the last two years. They clearly expect the cash taps to be turned on soon!
I did read of another well pumping oil in Dorset, further towards the west of England, so viability appears to be better in the UK than other real oil producing countries across the globe.