The companies with a stake in the Horse Hill exploratory drilling well near Horley, in Surrey, have announced they found evidence of oil at the weekend.
Alba Mineral Resources, which owns 5% of Horse Hill Developments Ltd, said this morning analysis of samples taken yesterday indicated the presence of oil.
The company said drilling had reached Portland sandstone and cuttings recovered from the well had “a dull yellow fluorescence with a slow diffuse light blue cut with a trace of residual oil ring”. This indicates the presence of oil within a porous and permeable rock matrix, Alba said.
The find coincided with a picnic on the verge outside the drilling site yesterday, organised by local anti-drilling groups. Local residents joined campaigners, some of whom travelled from Balcombe in West Sussex, where Cuadrilla drilled its exploratory oil well last summer.
This was the first major protest event at Horse Hill since drilling started early last month. The operation is described as conventional and it does not have permission for hydraulic fracturing. The main target for oil is in the Jurassic age Portland and Corallian Sandstones. Secondary oil targets include Great Oolite Limestone.
Opposition has stepped up in the past few weeks amid concerns that the site might be used to look for unconventional hydrocarbons. One of HHDL’s partners, Magellan, announced (then later retracted) that it would be logging several shale and tight formations to inform its unconventional development elsewhere in the Weald Basin. Our report
Since then, as well as the picnic, campaigners have handed out leaflets to commuters and organised a public meeting for Monday October 13th in Horley.
Some people who live near the site and attended yesterday’s picnic complained on video about recent noise levels from the drill. One resident said of the site: “We can hear it. We’re all waking up at night.” Another said: “Our animals are being affected as well. My dog has developed a noise phobia.” There were also complaints about light pollution, vibration and a loss of habitat.
Also yesterday, the FT carried an interview on its website with the head of Horse Hill Developments, the Australian, David Lenigas. He was asked what were the chances of there being no oil at Horse Hill?, “Zero”, he replied. Asked about his hopes for the future, he said: “We’d like to rewrite southern England’s potential as a source of large scale gas deposits”.