There could be up to 8.57 billion barrels of shale oil under southern England, a report by the British Geological Survey (BGS) reveals.
The report, published today (Friday May 23), looks into oil potential in the Weald Basin which stretches over Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey and Kent.
It revealed that while there is a substantial amount of shale oil hidden in the study area, no significant gas resource has been identified.
Experts say this is because shale is not thought to have reached geological maturity to generate gas.
A spokesperson for BGS said: “The figure for oil represents the total amount of oil present in the rocks. It is not known what percentage of the oil present in the shale could be commercially extracted.
“In order to estimate the shale oil reserve, drilling and testing of new wells will be required to give a better idea of oil production rates. In addition, non-geological factors such as oil price, operating costs and the scale of development agreed by the local planning system will affect the amount of oil produced.
“Shale oil clearly has potential in Britain but it will require geological and engineering expertise, investment and protection of the environment. It will also need organisations like the BGS to play their part in providing up to date and accurate information on resources and the environment to the public, industry and Government.”
Campaigners fear that getting the oil out of the ground could involve the controversial process known as fracking.
Friends of the Earth’s South East Regional Campaigner, Brenda Pollack said: “These latest estimates will set alarm bells ringing across the South East of England where fracking firms seem intent on punching holes in some of Britain’s most beautiful countryside in the search for profits.
“No wonder the Government waited until after the elections to make this announcement as Lord Howell recently warned that fracking will cost the Tories thousands of votes in their heartlands.
“Shale oil and gas are not the solution to the UK’s energy challenges. Rather than drilling for more dirty fossil fuels that will add to climate change, the Government should be backing renewable power and energy efficiency.”