An oil well dubbed the ‘Gatwick Gusher’ could produce ‘North Sea-like’ amounts of oil, according to new estimates from energy firm UKOG.
But the announcement made by the firm this week has been met with anger from environmentalists and is expected to lead to more anti-fracking protests.
UKOG is currently test drilling at Horse Hill near Gatwick and has indicated it will press ahead with an application for horizontal drilling and a possible new well.
The firm says that ‘outstanding’ test results could see the site produce almost 10 per cent of the UK’s onshore daily oil production.
But the announcement is being met with anger across the south east.
A spokeswoman for the Green Party said: “Residents and campaigners are worried that estimates, based on UK Oil and Gas’s own figures, could see The Wider Weald basin pockmarked with more than 10,000 oil wells.
“Analysis by the campaign group Frack Off reveals that the industrial scale drilling required to extract the reported 124 billion barrels of oil could result in 4-8 wells per square mile.
“Peaceful direct action taken by protesters at Horse Hill last week and the level of support for the campaign against oil drilling on Leith Hill near Dorking, highlight the sheer scale of opposition to fossil fuel extraction in the south east.”
And East Surrey Green Party co-chairman Sarah Finch said: “It might be easy for the oil companies to dismiss these protests, but what we’re seeing are local communities in our towns and villages rising up over the hunger of the oil companies to squeeze every last drop of oil from our countryside.
“The planning system looks at these applications on an individual basis but the cumulative impact could be very significant across the South East.”
UKOG chairman Stephen Sanderson said: “The flow test results are outstanding, demonstrating North Sea-like oil rates from an onshore well.
“This simple vertical well has achieved an impressive aggregate oil rate equivalent to 8.5 per cent of total UK onshore daily oil production.”
But, he added: “The Horse Hill licence owners remain committed to ensuring that any resultant future commercial operations will respect the rural beauty of the Weald basin and the way of life of local residents.”
UKOG has already said it does not expect to have to use hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ to release the oil.