A Devon County Council officer advises me: “Since the map was prepared (last year), the Government has launched a new licensing round for oil and gas, and the pink area equates to the area being offered for licensing.

“The map shows areas of Blue Lias within East Devon, which is a shale resource that has potential for shale gas elsewhere in southern England.

“However, in East Devon this is unlikely to occur at the depth required (at least 1500 metres) for shale gas to either form or be capable of extraction.”

“It does not follow that all of these areas will have oil or gas resources or that, if oil or gas are present, that it would be physically, environmentally or economically feasible to extract them.

“As the national map shows, only a small proportion of the area offered for licensing is currently licensed.  The same area of Devon was offered in 2007, when no licenses were issued within the county.

“For shale gas extraction to be feasible, it needs a suitable geological resource (generally organic-rich shales) located at the depth necessary (a minimum of 1500 metres) for the gas to form and for the pressure to exist to force it upwards after fracking. 

“The British Geological Survey has published a report (https://www.og.decc.gov.uk/UKpromote/onshore_paper/UK_onshore_shalegas.
pdf) identifying the geological formations they consider have potential for shale gas, of which the only one occurring in Devon is the Blue Lias that I have indicated on the map I provided.

“Within Devon, the Blue Lias either occurs at the surface or at depths of up to 300 metres, and is therefore unsuitable for shale gas to have formed.  Gas is more likely to be present further east in Dorset, where the Blue Lias occurs much deeper and already yields oil around Poole Harbour .

“My view is that the area being offered for licensing within Devon (i.e.the pink area) is unlikely to be suitable for shale gas extraction as it either does not have the right type of geology or, in the case of the Blue Lias, it is not at the necessary depth.

And to further questions, I have received this prompt reply:

“We’ve had no contact from any company concerning shale gas or fracking.

“The only instance of interest in oil or gas in Devon that I’m aware of was in 1985 when an operator obtained a licence for an area of East Devon, and then obtained planning permission for an exploratory well at Musbury (shown on the map) – this was drilled (no fracking) and found negative for oil and gas.  This licence lapsed in 1991, since when there has been no further interest.”

Image: The latest map from Devon County Council on shale gas potential/licensing.