Billions of barrels of oil have been found in the UK at what was previously a small site near Gatwick Airport. But how much of that can be extracted and its potential benefits are still far from clear, as Joel Flynn reports.
Deep in the heart of the British countryside, among lush green fields and rows of hedges and trees, lies an untouched reserve of billions of barrels of oil. That's according to a new survey done on the area. It could be one of the biggest mainland oil finds in the UK. UK Oil and Gas investments reported the find, which it has a 30 percent stake in. David Lenigas is its chairman. SOUNDBITE: UK Oil and Gas Invesments Chairman, David Lenigas, saying (English): "It's like a big sponge 1,500 feet thick with vast amounts of oil in it, with three big limestones that mean you can effectively suck the oil out of the sponge. It's a great find and there's a lot more work to be done to bring it into proper production, but eventually this will be a very key part of Britain's stratgeic energy resource." The companies operating at the site were already aware of the oil deposit. What they had thought of as a small find though has proved to be much bigger. 158 million barrels of oil per square mile at the Weald Basin, near Gatwick Airport, would make the site a "world class" resource, according to UKOG. Environmental groups have warned about the effects further fossil fuel consumption could have on the climate. Locals too, already living close to an airport, are likely to oppose heavy industry nearby. But Admiral Markets' Darren Sinden says this might just be the start. SOUNDBITE: Admiral Markets Market Research and Client Relations Manager, Darren Sinden, saying (English): "I think we'll see more of these kind of discoveries, perhaps not of this scale, and more moves by companies to try and exploit that, and there will obviously have to be a wider conversation about whether it's right to be churning up the countryside looking for oil, or to let sleeping dogs lie, particularly while the oil price remains so low." There's still much work to be done. Test drilling at two sites are ongoing, and UKOG estimates only between 5 and 15 percent of the total reserve will be recoverable. Even with that recovered, a depressed global price means the money might not flow in as quickly as the oil.