IGas unveils drilling expansion plans for Surrey

IGas is publicising plans today to start producing oil and gas from one of its exploration sites in Surrey.

The company is holding an information meeting about its plans to extend part of the Bletchingley oil field, east of Redhill, and to convert the wells from appraisal to production.

IGas says it expects to produce up to 600 barrels of oil a day from two existing wells and up to four new ones at the site at Kings Farm, known as Bletchingley-5 and 6. At the neighbouring site, called Bletchingly-2, the company plans to begin gas production.

The company says this will be a conventional oil and gas operation and it predicts the site could run for up to 15 years. Its website says: “We currently have no plans or consents to develop shale gas at this location”. However, IGas told shareholders last year that it had an “extensive acreage position for shale” and that prospective shale horizons were present in all three of its key focus areas, including the Weald, of which Bletchingley is part.

A notice about the plans by Bletchingley Parish Council said oil production would require up to four lorries a day. Gas produced from Bletchingley-2 would be piped to Bletchingley-5 and 6. The gas could be used generate electricity for the local grid and the oil production site, or fed into the local gas grid, the council said.

IGas’s website says Bletchingley-5 and 6 would be extended by 0.8ha. The site would be surrounded by security fencing 2.5m high and there would be new water and oil storage tanks and a new tanker loading area.

Drilling in the area south of the Redhill-Tonbridge railway line dates back to the 1960s when Esso carried out oil and gas exploration. The Bletchingley oilfield was acquired in 1993 by Star Energy, which is now part of IGas.

In August this year, Surrey County Council granted IGas an extension of one year to its planning permission for Bletchingley-2. This was intended to allow for extra time to complete restoration of the site. The council also granted a 12-month extension at Bletchingley-5 and 6 to complete appraisal and to restore the site.

The parish council notice said IGas expects to submit a planning application for the extension and production operation by the end of this year. If permission were granted, preparation work at Bletchingley-5 and 6 would be carried out in spring and summer 2015 and the wells drilled from 2016-2020.

The council said IGas believes preparation and hydrocarbon production would be achieved “with minimal impact on neighbours” and the company would “do their utmost to ensure that is the case”. A report by Surrey County Council planners for one of this year’s planning applications said the nearest home was 100m away, with a group of apartments 145m away.

IGas community fund

In 2013-14, the area around the Bletchingley oil field received £17,500 from IGas through its community fund. £14,000 went to the Bletchingley Church House Appeal, £2,000 to Surrey Police for the Godstone Boxing and Fitness Club and £1,500 for a community defibrillator. In that year, the fund distributed just under £148,000 across IGas sites in north west and southern England and in the east Midlands. In 2014-15, the fund awarded grants totally nearly £164,000 but none went to the Bletchingley area.

Fracking sand

Even if oil companies do not carry out fracking at Bletchingley, the area could still develop a connection to the process.

Last year, the British Geological Survey identified possible UK sources of fracking sand – the product needed to prop open fractures in oil and gas reservoirs during hydraulic fracturing. The BGS included in its list the Folkestone Formation, a line of sand stretching from Redhill east to Sevenoaks and Maidstone in Kent. It specifically mentioned quarrying at Godstone, near Bletchingley.

Surrey County Council is currently consulting on two planning applications to continue extracting sand from North Park and Pendell Quarries at North Park Lane, Godstone, and to retain a silica sand processing plant and associated facilities, both until the end of December 2022.

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