"Peak" Oil?
Britain’s Underground Elephant Gets Bigger

Two months ago, a small British oil exploration firm shocked the world when it announced a massive new oil discovery in southeast England, describing the site underneath Gatwick airport as a “world class potential resource.” The lucky firm, UK Oil & Gas Investments, estimated that the region’s Weald basin held as many as 158 million barrels of oil per square mile, which extrapolated out could mean a grand total of more than 100 billion barrels. Now, an outside assessment estimates the basin to contain 271 million barrels per square mile—72 percent more oil than was initially reported. Bloomberg reports:

An independent assessment of the Horse Hill well has estimated there could be about 271 million barrels of oil per square mile. That compares with a prior estimate in April of 158 million.

UK Oil & Gas, which has a 20% interest in the well, was up as much as 53% today. The company’s CEO said the study “adds further weight to the potential significance of the HH-1 well and the potential of the Horse Hill licences.”

The Gatwick discovery received plenty of pushback for being “wildly optimistic,” but UK Oil & Gas echoed these calls for caution when it warned that the recovery rate was somewhere between 3 and 15 percent, deflating the relevance of that estimate of 100 billion barrels.

Still, this new corroboration of the play’s promise, and more importantly this upgrade of its actual potential, should come as welcome news for Britain, which is currently seeing production from its important North Sea oil reserves decline rapidly. Getting that oil out of the ground won’t be an easy thing, especially given the virulent Not-In-My-Backyard protests it’s sure to face (which have already scuppered attempts to tap British shale). But for British energy security, the difficulty will be worth it.

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