The Government has proposed new rules to simplify the granting of access for fracking. They would see underground access for shale oil and gas developments allowed under 300 metres.

Under the proposals people living above ground would receive a voluntary payment of £20,000 per well. Meanwhile a report by the British Geological Survey (BGS) has found there are an estimated 4.4 billion barrels of shale oil in vast parts of southern England.

The study of the Weald Basin, which stretches from Wiltshire to Kent, found there could be 2.2-8.5 billion barrels of shale oil.

The BGS stressed that these numbers are for resources and not reserves. Shale oil exploration in the United States has only been able to access up to 10% of the total oil.

Areas studied include Hampshire, Kent, Surrey, West and East Sussex. Credit: British Geological Survey

The study area covers southern Britain and extends from Salisbury (Wiltshire) in the west to Ashford (Kent) in the east; Southampton marks the south-western boundary.

The main counties above the basin include:

  • Kent

  • Hampshire

  • Surrey

  • Sussex

Areas affected by the weald basin Credit: British Geological Survey

However, the areas affected within the Weald Basin include Horsham, Crawley, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Folkestone as well as Hastings.

However, according to the study, shales further west and on the northern and southern areas are not considered mature for oil generation.

The study concludes that there is no significant Jurassic shale gas potential in the Weald Basin, which will come as a blow to the government who hoped that there would be substantial reserves.

Areas within the inner circle are said to be hotspots for oil resources. Credit: British Geological Survey

The BGS admitted that some of the prospective drilling sites are in environmentally sensitive areas, in national parks, 'Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty' or under towns and villages adding that they should be cautious to ensure that the environment is properly protected.