According to initial reports from exploration firm UK Oil & Gas Investments (UKOG) there could be as many as 100 billion barrels of oil beneath Horse Hill, Surrey near Gatwick Airport.
Last year the firm drilled a well at Horse Hill to analyse the likelihood of oil in the local area. Predictions are that the well could hold as much as 158 million barrels of oil per square mile. However, UKOG has admitted that only a fraction of this discovery could be harvested. Possibly only as much as 15 billion barrels compared to the North Sea that has produced 45 billion barrels since 1975.
"We think we've found a very significant discovery here, probably the largest [onshore in the UK] in the last 30 years, and we think it has national significance," Stephen Sanderson, UKOG's chief executive, was quoted.
The majority of the oil apparently lies within the Upper Jurassic Kimmeridge formation at a depth of between 2,500ft (762m) and 3,000ft (914m). UKOG describes the find as a 'world class potential resource' despite the low percentage of oil predicted to be extracted.
Oil has been produced onshore in the South of England for decades with a dozen drilling locations scattered across Kent, Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire. UKOG says that it drilled the deepest well in the region in the last 30 years and that the results 'comprehensively change the understanding of the area's potential oil resources'.
"Based on what we've found here, we're looking at between 50 and 100 billion barrels of oil in place in the ground," says Mr Sanderson. "We believe we can recover between 5% and 15% of the oil in the ground, which by 2030 could mean that we produce 10%-to-30% of the UK's oil demand from within the Weald area."
Research being carried out at Imperial College, London is pointing towards significantly more oil in the region with 40 billion barrels potentially in the ground, however it still has to be found and successfully drilled and tested. UKOG have reported that the oil held within the rocks of the Horse Hill region are naturally fractured eliminating the need for fracking: the controversial method of extracting gas and oil using water, sand & chemicals.
UKOG will continue to drill and test the rock to gain a clearer picture of the volume of extractable oil and the best methods to do so.