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Countryside Near London's Gatwick Airport Might Be Hiding Billions of Extra Barrels of Oil

As many as 100 billion barrels of oil could be lying under the ground in southern England. The discovery has been hailed as "very significant," but environmental activists are concerned.
Photo by Jarrett Campbell/Flickr

There could be 100 billion barrels of oil under the ground near London's Gatwick Airport, according to a small exploration company.

Analysis by UK Oil & Gas Investments (UKOG) on a well drilled at Horse Hill, southern England, found that there could be as much as 158 million barrels of oil per square mile in the area — though the organization admit that only a small percentage of that is actually recoverable.

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"We think we've found a very significant discovery here, probably the largest [onshore in the UK] in the last 30 years, and we think it has national significance," Stephen Sanderson, UKOG's chief executive told the BBC.

"Based on what we've found here, we're looking at between 50 and 100 billion barrels of oil in place in the ground," he said, adding: "We believe we can recover between 5 percent and 15 percent of the oil in the ground, which by 2030 could mean that we produce 10-30 percent of the UK's oil demand from within the Weald area."

According to the company's testing, most of the oil lies at a depth of between 2,500 feet (762m) and 3,000 feet (914m), within the Upper Jurassic Kimmeridge formation.

Thursday's news caused the stock value of the small company to shoot upwards.

Investors in UK Oil & Gas Investments, which found 100bn barrels of oil near Gatwick, having a good morning. — Mike Bird (@Birdyword)April 9, 2015

It also created consternation about how the oil — if its actually as plentiful as is believed — would be extracted. UKOG has claimed that they will not resort to fracking it.

Related: As election campaign gets underway, Britain's politicians have trouble talking about the future. Read more here.

However, environmental activists have been critical about the announcement.

In a statement sent to VICE News, Greenpeace UK chief scientist Doug Parr said: "To gleefully rub your hands at a new fossil fuel discovery you need to turn the clock back to the 19th century and ignore everything we have learnt about climate change since."

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Parr added: "We already have more than enough coal, oil, and gas reserves to fry the planet. Dotting the English countryside with drilling rigs and pipelines to squeeze the last drop of oil out of Britain doesn't make any sense. It's time we uncoupled our economy from the dangerous roller-coaster of fossil fuels and invested in the clean technologies that can provide safe and cheap energy for decades to come."

Brenda Pollack, the south east campaigner for environmental activism group Friends of the Earth, said in statement: "The prospect of dirty oil extraction in southern England will greatly alarm local communities."

Pollack referred to the upcoming UK election on May 7, stating: "The next government must end our reliance on climate-changing fossil fuels and invest in real solutions to the energy challenges we face, such as renewable power and energy efficiency."

Related: Diego Garcia: UK delays publication of flight records which may hold truth about CIA activities. Read more here.

Follow Sally Hayden on Twitter: @sallyhayd