The government is expected to announce on Friday that the Weald Basin in southern England contains billions of barrels of shale oil, delivering a potentially huge boost to an embryonic industry in the UK.
Purple outline marks area studied by the British Geological Survey. Black boxes indicate existing small-scale oil and gas production.
The announcement will set the scene for a stand-off between Britain’s small band of domestic shale explorers and the well-heeled residents of one of the Tories’ traditional heartlands.
The government will unveil the results of a study by the British Geological Survey, the latest in its reports on unconventional oil and gas potential. It will focus on the Weald, an area spanning Sussex, Hampshire, Kent and Surrey.
Last year, the BGS published a study of the Bowland Shale in northern England, which, it said, contained about 1,300tn cubic feet of gas.
Even if only a tenth of that is extracted, it would be the equivalent of 40 years’ gas supply for the UK.
The results of the latest study could raise huge foreign and domestic interest in Britain’s shale resources in advance of the government’s planned 14th oil licensing round later this year. This is expected to open up large parts of the country to exploration.
The Conservative-led coalition has been highly supportive of the shale industry, offering tax breaks to explorers, and incentives for communities hosting the drillers. It hopes to replicate the shale boom in the US, where mass production has brought down domestic gas prices and spurred an industrial renaissance.