Energy Minister Michael Fallon has said that fracking should take place in Tory heartlands in south east England “in the national interest”, after a new report revealed 4.4 billion barrels of shale oil could lie beneath Kent, Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire.
The research by the British Geological Survey said, however, that only a small fraction was likely to be extracted, possibly as little as five percent, due to the “difficult” geology, and there was also no shale gas, the Daily Telegraph reports.
Mr Fallon denied being disappointed with these results, and insisted that the shale oil that can be extracted will still be “a significant addition to our home-grown energy supplies.”
He added: “It is in the national interest that we do everything we can to find out how much of this potential can be brought into production.”
If only five percent can be extracted, that will still equate to about 220 million barrels, with a value of around $22 billion.
The minister also defended plans to change trespass laws to remove the right of landowners and homeowners to object to deep-level fracking taking place under their homes. He described the current system, where a single landowner can seriously delay a development even if all other permission has been granted, as “costly, time-consuming and disproportionate”.
Under the law change, fracking companies would be able to drill under land at a depth of 980 feet or greater without landowners being able to block it. Local communities will also be offered up to £20,000 for each horizontal well drilled.
Last week, Lord Howell of Guildford, father-in-law of Chancellor George Osborne, warned that the Conservatives could lose thousands of votes if they allow fracking to go ahead in Tory strongholds, and suggested that shale gas and oil extraction may be better suited to “desolate” areas of northern England.
He said: “Trying to start in Southern England, and in the Home Counties, or in rural and countryside areas anywhere, north or south, is a guarantee of longer delays, higher costs and increased hostility from both green left and countryside right.”