The company behind the Horse Hill oil exploration well near Horley in Surrey is looking to carry out testing early in 2015, with production later in the year.
David Lenigas, of Horse Hill Developments Ltd, told a televised interview for Mail Online
“There is still a lot of working going on with the consultants in assessing the true value and the potential of the Horse Hill-1 well before we look at putting it onto production sometime next year.”
He said the company would be interpreting logs from the well over the next two to four weeks.
“Once that is all complete, we will be making applications to the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the environmental authority on how best to bring Horse Hill onto test. I don’t see any progress on getting approvals until early next year.”
Drilling equipment used at Horse Hill is currently being moved off the site. Campaigners against the operation have been slowing down the demobilisation by walking in front of vehicles.
On Wednesday two campaigners climbed onto vehicles and were arrested. A man, a local resident, was taken to the Salford detention centre, where he was held in custody for seven hours. He was released after accepting a caution. Later a woman locked herself to a section of the drilling rig that was leaving the site. She was cut free by police after three hours and abseiled to the ground. She was in custody for seven hours and released at 1am, again after accepting a caution.
In October, Mr Lenigas told BBC Radio Sussex there could be 80 million barrels of oil and 160 billion cubic feet of gas at Horse Hill, worth £2 billion. The actual results released so far have been much smaller. The well found 3.1m barrels in the Portland sands and earlier this month, it was reported that the well had found no gas.
Investors’ websites have been disappointed with the outcome. ProactiveInvestors.co.uk said
“The size of the discovery does not live up to the high hopes in the retail investment community. Some pre-drill estimates for the well were phrased in hundreds of million barrels. Just how much of the discovered 3.1m barrels can be recovered will be determined by ongoing analysis.”
Despite this, Mr Lenigas said the well had delivered “quite nicely”.
“To actually drill Horse Hill 1 and find the Portland to be oil rich and to be of the permeability and porosity that should give us commercial flow, I think has been a huge success.”
He said there was a possible 16m barrels of oil in a separate Portland layer which had yet to be appraised. This could be developed in a second phase, he said, with a horizontal well or a second vertical well at Horse Hill.
And he added that the well had found hydrocarbons in the Kimmeridge clays. “None of us were expecting to see any hydrocarbons in the Kimmeridge clays whatsoever. We are quietly optimistic that we will have some additional oils to the recoverable potential for Horse Hill.”
Rob Basto, of Frack Free Surrey, said campaigners have been camping near the site since last week to show their opposition to the operation. He said although the site has nominally been exploring for conventional oil, HHDL was also testing for unconventional oil and gas, the type that requires fracking. If exploited this could result in thousands of wells in the area, he said.
“They have not released any information on tests made of unconventional oil and gas, the type that would require fracking to extract it.
“It is quite possible that this information will be used to justify an application for fracking in the future.
“There is also concern that even the exploitation of conventionally extracted oil is damaging as exploiting new sources of fossil fuels will exacerbate climate change.
“There are already far more known reserves of conventionally extractable gas and oil than we can safely use without risking catastrophic changes to the climate.”