New BGS Report Highlights Shale Oil Threat In Wessex Basin
A new report by the British Geological Survey (BGS) estimates the Lower Lias shale formation in the Wessex Basin contains around 1.1 billion barrels of oil. This about a quarter of the amount the BGS estimated for the Weald Basin (where the Kimmeridge Clay, rather than the Lias, is the main threat) but still poses a significant threat to the areas involved. In the Weald Basin fracking companies (e.g. UK Oil & Gas Investments) are already hyping the prospects of exploiting shale/tight oil, with claims of much larger amounts than the BGS figures.
The most threatened areas in the Wessex Basin are the Purbeck District of Dorset and the southern half of the Isle of Wight, but other parts of the Dorset and Hampshire could also be affected. While this area has seen some conventional oil extraction, notably Prerenco’s Wytch Farm oilfield, this new threat would be on a vastly greater scale and intensity. Exploitation of the Lower Lias would require drilling a several hundred to a thousand plus wells, at densities of up to 8 wells per square mile, over these areas. In contrast Wytch Farm has seen a few dozen wells drilled, over 20 years, out under the sea from a very small number pads, often on small islands off the coast.
As with all unconventional oil & gas exploitation the fraction of oil that could actually be extracted is quite small, often as little as 4 percent or less, which in this case would equate to around a month of UK oil consumption, but several fracking companies are already scrambling for a slice of that pie. Infrastrata (who have previously drilled near Belfast) have a planned well at California Quarry near Swanage which, while being sold an conventional, would drill through the Lias shale formation providing the company with data needed to proceed further. The main cheerleaders for shale oil in the Weald Basin, UKOG, have also just acquired a licence covering the southern Isle of Wight (PEDL 331).
Groups already organising to resist fracking in the area include Frack Free Isle of Wight and Frack Free Dorset, but more are needed. If you want to start a group in your area see our Get Involved page or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.