The British Geological Survey released a report yesterday naming traditional Tory heartlands of Hampshire, Sussex and Surrey, as areas believed to be richer in oil than gas. The report estimates resources of 4.4 billion barrels of shale oil in an area which includes most of the South Downs National Park and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The study of the Weald Basin, which stretches from Wiltshire to Kent, found there could be 2.2-8.5 billion barrels of shale oil, however the scientist who oversaw the project admitted it would be so difficult to extract that the basin would be unlikely to yield even 0.5 per cent of the oil so far extracted from the North Sea.
Robert Gatliff, director of energy and marine geoscience at the British Geological Survey, which produced the report, said: “It’s not a huge bonanza. But we have to see what happens.” He added: “It is going to be a challenge for the industry to get it out.”
This is not good news for the Government which is committed to ‘go all out on shale’ and which has been accused of trying to ‘bury’ the inconvenient report by releasing it on the day when all the attention would be directed towards the results of the local elections.
Asked if the findings were a let-down for the Government, Energy minister Michael Fallon said: “It’s not a let-down or a let-up. It is what it is.” He insisted the shale oil could still be a “significant addition to our homegrown energy supplies”.
The Government has a difficult task to persuade the people to support shale gas exploration. So far it’s efforts have not been paying off with support for fracking in the UK falling below 50%.
In a new move to entice communities to welcome shale exploration, the government is considering payouts that would compensate for exploration-related disturbance. Michael Fallon announced proposals which would see voluntary payments of £20,000 per well.
The compensation would be distributed after consultation with local community groups, and would be in addition to one-off £100,000 payments in areas with fracking sites and a one per cent share of profits made.
The proposals have been dismissed by anti-fracking groups as an attempt at bribery with Greenpeace declaring that the ‘bungs and bulldozers approach’ has caused a drop in support for the controversial process.
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