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Volume 928: debated on Monday 21 March 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy what are the latest estimates available for Great Britain's energy resources; and if he will will make a statement.



Publish estimates of proven, probable and possible recoverable reserves for oil amount to between 3,000 and 4,500 million tonnes of oil—5,000–7,500 million tons of coal equivalent—mtce.


Published estimates of proven, probable and possible recoverable reserves of gas amount to 1,200 million tonnes of oil equivalent—2,000 mtce.


Estimates proven reserves of coal which are economically recoverable at current coal prices amount to over 6,000 million tonnes of coal (over 3,500 million tonnes of oil equivalent). Total coal reserves thought to be technically recoverable are estimated at 45,000 million tonnes of coal—over 27,000 million tonnes of oil equivalent—but it is not at present possible to estimate how much of this will eventually become economically recoverable.

Oil Shales

There are large reserves of oil shales in the ground, but none has been economically workable in recent years. My Department is currently funding an evaluation of reserves, as part of a study of the possible renewal, in the long term, of shale oil production.


The United Kingdom's reasonably assured uranium reserves are estimated at about 2,000 tonnes, but these are not considered economically exploitable under present circumstances. In addition, as a result of the existing nuclear programme, the United Kingdom has stocks of depleted uranium which, if used in fast reactors, could yield around 40,000 mtce of energy.

Renewable Resources

We estimated that it should be technically feasible to obtain a total of up to a maximum of perhaps 40 mtce per year from the sea, wind, sun and possibly from geothermal sources by the end of the century. Research programmes are under way and should help to show how far their development on this timescale might be economic.