Campaigners against oil and gas extraction, reacting to today’s news of a potentially large onshore oil field at Horse Hill in Surrey, called for a move away from fossil fuels. Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist, Doug Parr, said:
“To gleefully rub your hands at a new fossil fuel discovery you need to turn the clock back to the 19th century and ignore everything we have learnt about climate change since. We already have more than enough coal, oil, and gas reserves to fry the planet. “Dotting the English countryside with drilling rigs and pipelines to squeeze the last drop of oil out of Britain doesn’t make any sense. It’s time we uncoupled our economy from the dangerous roller-coaster of fossil fuels and invested in the clean technologies that can provide safe and cheap energy for decades to come.”
Alarm communities Friends of the Earth South East campaigner Brenda Pollack said:
“The prospect of dirty oil extraction in southern England will greatly alarm local communities and put fracking firmly on the region’s election agenda. “Any firm proposing to drill for oil in the region knows it will face huge opposition – as happened at Balcombe, Fernhurst and Wisborough Green. Drilling proposals in Sussex have already been turned down. “The next Government must end our reliance on climate-changing fossil fuels and invest in real solutions to the energy challenges we face, such as renewable power and energy efficiency.”
People won’t fall for “We’re not fracking” rhetoric Geraldine Ring, of Frack Free Ireland – Brussels, criticised UKOG’s claim that it would not need to frack the oil in the Weald. She said fracking should be defined as all oil and gas exploration activities, all of which have an impact on people and the environment.
“The industry is doing everything it can to get its drill bits in the ground and yet again it is using its narrow definition of fracking in an attempt to allay peoples’ genuine fears. As we have seen from Balcombe, Barton Moss and West Newton, noise, light, air and water pollution all accompany exploration activities, so it is completely irrelevant whether a company states it is going to frack or not. If the industry believes that locals are going to fall for this “we’re-not-fracking” rhetoric after everything it has done so far, it had better think again. “It is safe to say that any onshore oil and gas company which starts drilling right now is interested in fracking and communities should do all in their power to stop the industry as soon as it becomes active in an area, as happened in Belcoo, Co. Fermanagh over last summer. The sooner a community takes action, the greater the chances of winning. This is why we need to see ‘fracking’ as an entire lifecycle that begins with seismic testing.”
Rob Basto, Frack Free Surrey, said on BBC Radio 4’s The World At One:
What we certainly don’t want is huge quantities of oil being exploited in the region. To get the sort of quantities they are talking about would need about 30,000 wells across the Weald. That would obviously have a huge impact.
Asked if it was the start of a huge industry, he said, “They will probably try that but we have no intension of letting that happen. A lot of the countryside is pristine. It is beautiful countryside here. You would need about 30,000 wells and that would make a huge impact on the countryside.”
Professor Al Fraser, of Imperial College, also on The World at One, said his independent research estimated about 40bn barrels of oil from the Weald. He described how the oil could be extracted:
There are two ways you can extract it. There is the conventional way. Doesn’t involve any fracking, doesn’t involve any chemicals, just a matter of opening the well bore up and seeing if the pressure within the rock is enough to push the oil out of the ground. There’s a precedent for this working and that’s a little oil field calling Kimmeridge Bay in Dorset and that has been producing since 1959 continuously from a naturally fractured rock that UKOG says is present at Horse Hill. So that is producing about 60 barrels a day and not like the amounts we get out of North Sea reservoirs but it is working. And I think at Horse Hill they have every chance of getting a similar sort of success.
Now to get really commercial flow rates you have to start using the horrible fracking work and that is how they get oil out of rocks like this at commercial rates in the United States. So sometime in the future there will have to be a discussion around places like Horse Hill and other properties in that area around Sussex, Kent, and Surrey, just how they are going to get the oil out and make some money for it.
There is a very tight sweet spot, about a 30km radius around the join between the four counties of Surrey, Kent, East and West Sussex. That’s the area where people will concentrate.
Link to our report on the announcement by UK Oil & Gas, one of the company’s behind the Horse Hill well, that there could be 158m barrels of oil per square mile in the Weald Basin and potentially 50bn-100bn barrels across the region.