A report from the British Geological Survey (BGS) on oil and gas reserves under the South Downs is likely to make disappointing reading for the government. BGS reckons there might be anything between 2 to 8 billion barrels of oil in the hills but little in the way of gas reserves. Usually only about 5 % of total reserves is commercially recoverable which means that the South East could yield 100 to 400 million barrels of oil or about 2 months supply of the UK’s annual consumption.
Northern England looks more encouraging for the government with larger deposits including gas. In fact apart from guesswork from the BGS nobody knows for sure how much is under the ground until they find out from pilot drilling. Bringing up more oil instead of gas from southern sites removes one of the few pluses claimed for using shale gas to replace coal. Oil is more polluting maybe not as much as coal but certainly more than shale gas. Meanwhile, ministers have announced an increase in the community payback levy adding another £20,000 to the £100,000 offered already.