Will a $500bn oil discovery turn Sussex into Texas?

There could be 100 billion barrels of oil under southern England - but only a fraction of it can be pumped out.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 13 Aug 2015

Could Crawley be the new Dallas? An exploration company says it has struck black gold that could be worth hundreds of billions of pounds close to Gatwick airport in West Sussex. But don’t dig out the stetsons and shoulder pads just yet – only a fraction is actually recoverable.

UK Oil & Gas Investments (UKOG) said analysis of a well it drilled under Horse Hill suggested the local area could hold up to 158 million barrels per square mile (which can be drilled normally rather than fracked). The company’s licence covers 55 square miles, which means there could be as many as 8.7 billion barrels under that area of the Home Countries. That would be worth $493bn (£333bn) at the current Brent Crude oil price of just under $57 a barrel.

Only last year a British Geological Survey report estimated the entire Weald Basin, which spans Surrey, Sussex, Kent and Hampshire and has been producing small amounts of the black stuff for decades now, held 2.2-8.5 billion barrels. But UKOG’s new well went far deeper. ‘Based on what we’ve found here, we’re looking at between 50 and 100 billion barrels of oil,’ its chief exec Stephen Sanderson told the BBC.

Meanwhile, Imperial College professor Alastair Fraser has come up with a more measured, but still ‘significant’ estimate of 40 billion barrels. To put that in perspective, the North Sea has yielded around 45 billion barrels in the last 40 years, with between 15 and 24 billion left.

But there’s a catch – UKOG estimates only 3-15% of the oil is actually recoverable, based on similar fields in the US and Siberia, and more work needs doing to ‘prove its commerciality’. The find is still not to be sniffed at, though, and the AIM-listed company’s shares soared more than 200% to the still minuscule 3.45p, taking its market cap to just under £60m. Rodeo on the (probably just the one) runway anyone?

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