A fracking firm may drill a test well in already industrialised Park Royal in order to explore for gas trapped deep underground in north-west London, a boss of the business has told getwestlondon.

London Local Energy has applied to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) for a licence to extract shale gas in a swathe of London stretching from Harrow in the north-west corner to Westminster in the south-east boundary - an area inhabited by about 1million people across parts of nine boroughs.

Fracking is the nickname for hydraulic fracturing where a drill is used to access a gas seam trapped in shale rock formations and the fossil fuel is freed by creating a fissure in the earth by pumping a high-pressure water mixture down.

Jenny Jones, Green Party candidate in the upcoming London Mayoral elections, is out on the campaign trail on High Road in Wembley. TSV_NLP_NL20121085_01
 

Jenny Jones, a London Assembly Member for the Green Party, has criticised the London Local Energy's move to exploit highly urbanised parts of the capital.

Brent Council's Labour administration has similarly hit out against the technology - with the leader saying 'Fracking is a dirty word' - but its planning committee may end up having to decide whether to approve a drilling well application for Park Royal from London Local Energy.

Nick Grealy, of Kingston-Upon-Thames, south-west London, and the director of London Local Energy, said: "It's not one of the obvious areas of the UK [to drill], which would be Yorkshire or parts of Surrey. The oil and gas business is all about getting the oil and gas where no-one else thinks to look. Perhaps I'm a contrarian but contrarians are often right."

He said: "The licence is for six years and we have to commit to a work programme.

"What we would need to do is drill three or four boreholes because the geology of London hasn't really been studied but the news on fracking from the US is they appear to be finding gas in places that had been considered exhausted or discounted."

He said the initial outlay would be modest - about £2million - and the significant investment would come if the company struck shale gas.

The licence covers the rights to exploit National Grid reference squares TQ18 and TQ28.

 
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Mr Grealy said: "The Park Royal industrial estate has 500 hectares of industrial and warehouse land, and lots of trucks and noise, and we would only need 5 acres above ground but we could explore 200 sq km below ground.

"The test well would have a derrick of about 25ft and would be there for a maximum time of six weeks with existing technology, although technology is improving. What we would need to do is drill a core and we would go down probably about a mile and take the ground out and study it. That would give us which direction to put the drill.

"We would only need three of four of these boreholes to triangulate the geology. We would look to have only one exploration station.

"Previously in oil and gas you could only go down vertically and the only way to extract the fuel would be to put lots of holes in the ground.

"What we would do is drill down and if we were to find something prospectively we would then drill down 2miles approximately and not less than a mile, and then the drill can go sideways. The 'spokes' go out up to 10km.

"The south-east corner of block TQ28 is the corner of the Downing Street gardens so definitely not the Prime Minister's back yard.

"It's not under Buckingham Palace but it would cover Green Park."

Mr Grealy said extracted oil and gas is taxed at 62 per cent and could therefore generate huge amounts of income for the Government which London Local Energy would like to see invested in renewable energy.

He said: "We expect that we would be able to produce in the region of £100million by the early 2020s. Whether that's turnover or profit we can't say.

"Our estimation is there are at least 1million people within the area and it would be pointless to offer 10 per cent of profits in compensation - that would be £1 to a million people.

"We want to have as minimal disruption as possible. We don't want to screw up our own backyard."

There is no deadline for DECC to accept or reject London Local Energy's licence application.

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