UK Oil & Gas Investments (LON:UKOG), which led the consortium that gave us the Horse Hill discovery, is preparing to drill a well that could help turn the southern Home Counties into a new hotspot for hydrocarbons.
Broadford Bridge-1 (BB-1) will test a geological look-alike to the so-called Gatwick Gusher, located on the southern flank of the Weald Basin.
It is designed to test both the southerly extension of the Kimmeridge Limestone oil play across the Weald Basin and its development within the licence.
Conventional drill techniques will test four Kimmeridge Limestone reservoir horizons, the uppermost two of which were successfully flow tested at Horse Hill in 2016.
30 wells in three decades
Over the last two to three decades around 30 wells have been drilled into the Kimmeridge layer of the Weald Basin, which underlies the south and south-eastern corner of the country.
However those 30 wells never tested for oil as the sedimentary rock was thought to lack the porosity required to host it.
What the experts suspect is the Kimmeridge at Horse Hill is naturally fractured, which allowed the oil to accumulate. When accessed it flows easily to surface under its own steam.
This explains why the exploration well there not only flowed oil but did so in volumes not normally associated with UK onshore discoveries – a bumper 1,700 barrels a day.
If this model holds up then there would be no need for fracking to release this hydrocarbon bounty.
In March Angus Energy (LON:ANGS) helped shore up the theory about the about the Kimmeridge shale.
Its drill results revealed the characteristics of its Brockham well in Surrey to be very similar and, in some respects superior, to those of the so-called Gatwick Gusher some five miles down the road.
Success at Broadford Bridge would effectively confirm the existence of an untapped and extensive oil system below the south-east commuter belt.
The quantum of crude in the vicinity Gatwick could be mind boggling.
The Kimmeridge reservoirs of PEDL234, just one of UKOG’s licence areas and host to Broadford Bridge, are estimated to be host to 1.7bn barrels of the blacks stuff; Horse Hill itself may be host to up to 1billion barrels. Those alone would be internationally significant.
New oil play
It has to be stressed that these are guesses based on the geology being absolutely as expected and the Kimmeridge being as prevalent as thought.
There are a whole host of other assumptions too that make this a bit of a finger-in-the-air exercise.
Anyway, success would throw up a huge conundrum. Does the UK, which is looking for energy independence, drill areas of outstanding natural beauty to unlock the oil?
The backlash could be interesting as you might see an unlikely alliance between the middle-class Nimbies of the southern stockbroker belt and the rent-a-protestors of the environmental movement.