‘I would love to get fracking in London. Unfortunately, it looks unlikely that there is any exploitable shale gas in the London region, much to my disappointment, if I may say,’ said Boris Johnson at Mayor’s Question Time this October.
If a new company called London Local Energy (LLE) has its way then Johnson may just well be proved wrong.
The company has applied for a licence under the Department for Energy and Climate Change’s 14th round for onshore drilling. A licence is the first step in starting a drilling operation for shale oil or gas. Planning permission, permits from the Environment Agency, and approval from the Health and Safety Executive are also required.
‘The greatest issue has been public acceptance,’ said Nick Grealy, an energy consultant involved in setting up the company. ‘If LLE can jump start the process even a few months by revealing our plans this early, it will shorten the post-licence process. If we are unsuccessful, maybe we make the debate easier for others.’
Contrary to Johnson’s assessment, the company believes that London’s geology could be right for shale gas exploitation. The company has applied for blocks in Central, North and West London, areas that roughly include Wembley, Harrow, Brent Park, and Greenford.
This isn’t the first time the capital has been seen as a potential oil and gas producer. In 1948 a 3,680 ft deep dry hole was drilled at Willesden, and showed some potential for gas, according to that year’s World Oil Atlas. It was one of two post-war attempts to drill in London.
Resistance to the new scheme is likely to come from environmental groups. ‘The reckless pursuit of fracking ignores the risk of contaminating ground water through the pumping of massive amounts of water and toxic chemicals under high pressure,’ said the Green Party’s London Assembly Member Jenny Jones, summing up objections to drilling in London. ‘Furthermore it means that swathes of London and the South East will be threatened with disruption, noise and pollution as thousands of fracking trucks pass through their neighbourhoods. We could also create more jobs through investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency, than we would by fracking our environment.’