Where? The history (so far) of London’s oil and gas resources.
Until recently, producing any oil and gas under London would have been impossible. Thus, exploring for it would have been pointless.
The White Heather Laundry at what is now Artesian Close London NW10 8RW, was an extremely successful commercial laundry business that drilled a well for water in 1910. The modern rotary drill bit was not invented until 1919, and made the fortune of Howard Hughes’s father. In 1910-12 drilling to a depth of 2,500 feet took over 18 months.
From Texas to Alberta to Beverly Hills to Iraq, the search for water often uncovered oil. London has several wells for water over a 1000 feet depth, and LLE geologists have learnt much about London oil and gas prospects from them.
According to contemporary records in the public and private domain, the White Heather Laundry found over 250 feet of oil shows below 1500 feet. That is a very significant amount, and there are many discoveries which produce from 50 feet thick shows -or less. Equally, there are wells which tried to prove up oil fields from far thinner strata and were unsuccessful. LLE may fail too. But why should we not look?
From the laundry’s perspective, it wasn’t the water they needed, or at least it was too salty, bubbly and oily to be of any us to a laundry. Especially one that held several Royal Warrants.
The laundry moved to Birmingham at the start of World War One, where it had a contract to launder army uniforms. The oil discovery lay half forgotten. This was a period where drilling for oil needed intensive drilling, completely unsuitable for London and also an era when huge discoveries of oil were made in Iran, Iraq and throughout the US. The price of oil averaged less than $2 in the 1920’s and fell below a dollar a barrel in 1931, less than $10 in today’s money.
But in 1941, the value of oil was also measured in blood. Oil was vital for the war effort, but the oil was now far away, or sunk to the bottom of the sea. A group of American oil men were sent to the UK and drilled in the East Midlands. They produced enough oil to be a production success, but not on peacetime economics.
The US oilmen’s last well drilled in the UK was in 1947 in Willesden, NW10 9BX, 500 meters from the White Heather well. The newsreel narrator mentions the laundry well – an indication of how prospective it was still considered. It also indicates that the White Heather well had not been followed up by anyone else in the intervening years.
The Willesden well didn’t find oil, but it did show indications of gas. LLE’s geological analysis is the intellectual property of London Local Energy Limited and we will not release this publicly at this time.
In 1947, UK gas production was from town gas produced from coal. Natural gas was considered a waste product and the USA was one of the few areas where a natural gas industry had sprung up from the 1920’s onwards.
Both the Netherlands in the 1950’s and the UK Southern North Sea in the early 1960’s were initially bitter disappointments to governments who were looking for oil. The discoveries led to the development of modern market for European natural gas. The Willesden field was forgotten, even as, in another irony, Taylors Lane Power Station, lying between the two wells, switched from coal to natural gas in 1979. Today it uses inefficient gas turbines which are only used in times of extremely high demand, rarely more than a few hours per year. The site is operated remotely as a satellite of the Enfield Power Station, the only large gas fired power station within the M25
Returning to today, London Local Energy wants to drill and analyse the cores from the NW10 area to a greater depth, with an eye on using today’s non-intrusive yet potentially highly productive methods. We can drill under the old wells from any number of locations from up to five miles away, although a gas fired power station sounds a reasonable enough location and the owners of the power station are aware of our efforts.
We don’t see LLE’s resources as being game changers. We’re the wildcatters of Willesden, but we don’t look good in cowboy hats. This may not be an especially productive gas field on a global scale, but it will be one that could make a significant contribution to both London’s energy security and carbon footprint. Let’s look!
The above is an image of the White Heather Laundry today.
Much of this analysis remains the intellectual property of London Local Energy Limited. We have much more available to share on signature of a confidentiality agreement.