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British shale oil may be ready to boom

Inland shale basin near Gatwick Airport could bring billions of dollars to the British economy, study finds.

By Daniel J. Graeber
British shale oil may be ready to boom
Report finds "Gatwick Gusher" inland shale oil basin could add billions of dollars to the British economy and potentially offset natural declines from the North Sea. Photo courtesy of U.K. Oil & Gas Investments

LONDON, April 18 (UPI) -- The so-called Gatwick Gusher, a shale basin in the United Kingdom, could add as much as $74 billion to the nation's economy, a study finds.

U.K. Oil & Gas Investments commissioned Ernst & Young to examine the future potential of oil production from the Weald shale basin.

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"Assuming it can be extracted from a development site at the volumes projected by U.K. Oil & Gas, has the potential to generate significant economic value to the U.K. economy," the report read.

Oil & Gas U.K., the industry's lobbying group, said the North Sea oil sector is in for a long period of decline, with less than $1.4 billion in new spending expected in 2016. Inland shale, meanwhile, has the potential to add between $10 billion and $74.6 billion to the British economy in gross value, the commissioned report said.

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Operators are working to assess the potential in the shale area by testing the Horse Hill-1 oil discovery. Preliminary estimates made by the company last year put the entire Horse Hill reserve total as high as 100 billion barrels of oil. If its full potential is reached, the future production from the area could provide as much as a quarter of the nation's total oil demand over its lifespan, based on 2014 demand levels.

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The field, locked in a geological formation called the Kimmeridge Limestone, is about three miles away from the Gatwick Airport, earning it the nickname the Gatwick Gusher.

Stephen Sanderson, the executive chairman of U.K. Oil & Gas, said developing the shale basin could make a significant contribution to the British economy. Oil is already flowing at nearly three times the expected peak rate.

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"It is therefore possible that the overall economic impact of Kimmeridge Limestone oil could be significantly higher than this initial report describes," he said in a statement.

The country is reviewing the early stages of a possible hydraulic fracturing industry. The practice, dubbed fracking, is viewed as a threat by environmental groups who fret over potential impacts ranging from contaminated water to earthquakes.

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