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New oil discovery makes Weald of Kent target of energy firms ahead of report by British Geological Survey

19 March 2014
by Paul Francis
It might not be Texas, but the Weald of Kent could be part of an unlikely new onshore oil bonanza.
 
Geologists are preparing a report that will say potentially huge energy reserves have been discovered in the area.
 
A government-commissioned report is due to be published shortly by the British Geological Survey.
The Weald of Kent. Picture John Westhrop

The Weald of Kent. Picture: John Westhrop

 
It is expected to say large parts of the Weald - straddling not just Kent, but parts of Sussex, Hampshire and Surrey - could hold reserves equal to a third of those under the North Sea.
 
If so, the discovery is bound to trigger fresh arguments over how it can be extracted safely, as any drilling operation is likely to have to use the fracking technique.
 
The potential discovery of oil reserves has drawn a qualified welcome by the Tonbridge and Malling MP Sir John Stanley.
 
He said that if drilling could be done safely and without disruption to residents, it should be allowed.
 
"My view is that there has been a near disastrous failure by successive governments to generate a sufficient degree of energy security," he said. 
Tonbridge and Malling MP Sir John Stanley

Tonbridge and Malling MP Sir John Stanley

 
"With declining North Sea reserves and nuclear power stations are becoming obsolete and shut down, we should have seen this coming.
 
"Reliable energy supplies are the life-blood of a modern economy."
 
He added he would back extraction if it could be done in a way that was environmentally safe.
 
!It would have to be on a location by location basis," he said. "I would want it to be properly monitored and done in an environmentally safe way."
 
Securing energy supplies was becoming a pressing issue, he said.

"I am very concerned that if we had had a really severe winter, we could be dealing with power cuts." 

Should energy firms be allowed to drill for oil in the Weald?

 
The study is reported to have assessed potential shale gas supplies in the area, but instead discovered oil was a potentially bigger resource.
 
If so, Kent could become a focus for the battle over the need for new energy supplies. 
 
Environmental campaigners believe that the extraction of shale gas through fracking is unreliable.

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Kent outlined as key battleground for fracking


The government recently announced incentives to communities who accepted fracking sites. 

Councils would be allowed to keep 100% of business rates from fracking operations rather than 50%.


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