Trillions of pounds worth of oil – as much as the entire North Sea fields – lies beneath an area of England dubbed ‘Britain’s Dallas’, it was claimed yesterday.
Analysis suggests there is up to 100billion barrels of the fossil fuel under the Home Counties.
The potential goldmine in the Weald Basin, across Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire and Kent, could meet up to a third of Britain’s oil demand within 15 years, according to the consortium exploring the area.
This could reduce reliance on oil from the Middle East and Russia and could be a major boost for British industry at a time when the North Sea supply is dwindling.
But industry experts remained sceptical of the claims, with one describing them as ‘overly optimistic’.
Since 1975, of an estimated 100billion barrels of oil in the UK North Sea, only 45billion have been pumped out. It is believed another 20billion barrels can be recovered before extraction becomes too difficult.
Experts warned last night that only a fraction of the Weald Basin oil may be accessible for extraction. They also claimed fracking could be required to retrieve significant volumes.
UK Oil & Gas Investments, which has a 30 per cent stake, said ‘cutting-edge’ data suggested the oilfield holds 158million barrels per square mile – equating to 100billion barrels across the basin.
At current crude prices, this could be worth £3.7trillion. Stephen Sanderson of UKOG, which insisted it would not use fracking, said: ‘By 2030, we could produce 10 per cent to 30 per cent of the UK’s oil demand from within the Weald area.’
Neil Ritson, of fellow consortium firm Solo Oil, said it was of ‘major economic significance’. If flow tests showed oil could be extracted, the production process could begin within 18 months, he added.
US firm Nutech, which conducted the tests, estimated 3 per cent to 15 per cent of the oilfield could be extracted – up to 15billion barrels.
UKOG chairman David Lenigas said drilling in the Weald could create ‘many thousands’ of jobs. Although the exploration site covered 55 square miles out of 1,100, he said the consortium was confident the entire region was oil-rich.