16:48 GMT +309 December 2019
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    Barrels of oil

    Keep It in the Ground: Calls to Abandon Drilling After UK Oil Discovery

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    Politicians and environmental groups have called for climate change concerns to come before money, following the discovery of a "significant" oilfield just south of London, which oil and gas officials say could produce up to 100 billion barrels of oil.

    Environmental activists and those opposing the burning of fossil fuels have denounced the excitement surrounding today's announcement, after a British exploration firm said the oilfield could possibly be England's biggest onshore oil discovery for 30 years and may help solve the UK's declining energy resources.

    UK Oil and Gas Investments (UKOG) revealed that there could be up to 100 billion barrels of oil in the area near Gatwick airport, just south of London, following exploration activities last year.

    However, UKOG believes that of the potential figure of 100 billion barrels, only somewhere between 5 and 15 percent of the oil can be recovered.

    Despite this, the company are optimistic about the discovery, which they say could "comprehensively change the understanding of the area's potential oil resources."

    "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. We believe we can recover between 5% and 15% of the oil in the ground, which by 2030 could mean that we produce 10%-to-30% of the UK's oil demand from within the Weald area." 

    Drilling Would 'Turn the Clock Back'

    Despite the optimism at the discovery and the potential benefits extracting the oil could have for the UK, opposition groups have called for an environmentally friendly approach to be taken in regards to fossil fuel use.

    Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South East England said that Britain must look towards more sustainable forms of energy if it is to meet climate change targets on carbon emissions.

    "This huge oil find is the perfect opportunity for us to have an important national debate about keeping fossil fuels in the ground. The scientific consensus on climate change has never been greater and we have been told that the only way we have a chance of averting catastrophe is by leaving large reserves of oil in the ground."

    Dr Doug Parr, Greenpeace UK's chief scientist, agreed with Mr Taylor, accusing the mining companies of greed at the expense of Britain's countryside.

    "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 learned about climate change since. We already have more than enough coal, oil, and gas reserves to fry the planet.

    "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."

    To Frack or Not to Frack?

    The issue of onshore oil extraction and the controversial technique of fracking has been an issue of heated public debate in the UK, with the government and oil and gas companies coming up against widespread public opposition.

    The British government has been very supportive of using fracking to source shale oil and gas supplies, however critics say the technique is environmentally risky as it could lead to the contamination of underground water tables and could increase the chances of seismic instability.

    Many of the concerns stem from a series of small earthquakes that took place near Blackpool in 2011, which analysts concluded was 'most likely' caused by fracking.

    The government reacted by placing a moratorium on fracking, which has since been lifted, however many campaigners say greater testing into the environmental and social impacts of fracking needs to be undertaken before drilling recommences.

    In reference to the latest oil discovery, UKOG says that the oil can be recovered using conventional drilling techniques, however some experts have raised questions over these claims, suggesting that fracking would be needed to extract commercial quantities of oil from the region.

    This debate has prompted Greens MEP Keith Taylor to seek assurances that fracking wouldn't take place.

    "We need proper and rigorous assurances from UKOG that fracking would not take place to get any oil out of the ground."

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    Tags:
    Oil, oil exploration, oil pollution, natural disaster, oil production, oil drilling, gas, resources, environment, energy, climate change, fossil fuels, greenhouse gas, UK Green Party, Gatwick, Britain, United Kingdom
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