London Evening Lecture: November 2017

The history of oil & gas exploration and development in the Wessex and Weald basins. From oil shale to shale gas With: Alastair J. Fraser, Department of Earth Science & Engineering, Imperial College, London.

14 November 2017

Event phone: +44 (0)20 7408 2000


It is interesting to go back in time almost 100 years when the precursors of British Petroleum fresh from their success in drilling large anticlines with carbonate reservoirs in the Zagros mountains of the Middle East finally turned their attention closer to home and to the large surface anticlines in Southern England. It is easy to reflect on the obvious attraction and similarities. Large undrilled Jurassic anticlines and numerous surface seeps such as at Mupe Bay and Osmington Mills on the Dorset coast. Add this to historical evidence of gas production from Heathfield Station in the Weald from a well drilled in 1896 and the mining of the oil shales of the Kimmeridge Clay Formation in Dorset which had been retorted to provide gas for street lighting in the mid 19th century. All the planets were seemingly aligned for a successful exploration campaign or were they?

Fig.1.  N-S Weald Basin Restoration.  Present day configuration above and restored to maximum burial in the Late Cretaceous below.  The restored section highlights the basin at its maximum petroleum potential before the conventional petroleum system was all but destroyed during Tertiary uplift and erosion. Section after M. Carles, Imperial College.

In this paper I will explore the exploration history of the Weald and Wessex Basins from the largely unsuccessful BP campaign in the 1930s to the hugely successful Wytch Farm discovery in 1973 – the largest onshore oilfield in Northwest Europe with over 1 billion barrels of in-place resources.  We will discuss the key success/failure factors for conventional petroleum particularly the part played by modern 2D seismic and petroleum systems analysis.  Finally we will touch on the potential for Shale Oil & Gas in the Weald and Wessex basins.

Venue Information

Venue information

Venue name:

The Geological Society of London

Venue phone:

+44 (0)20 7434 9944

Venue address:

Burlington House, Piccadilly, Mayfair, London, W1J 0BD, United Kingdom
Welcome to PESGB. This site uses cookies. Read our policy.