Investors in the Horse Hill exploratory oil well near Horley in Surrey have hit back at media suggestions that the site has been suspended.
An article in The Telegraph said the operator, Horse Hill Developments Ltd, had not applied to the Oil and Gas Authority for permission to flow test the well. The paper said a well test would require planning permission, environmental permits, a review by the Health and Safety Executive and consent from the OGA.
But the Telegraph says it had not applied for OGA consent. And flow tests that involve flaring of more than 10 tonnes gas per day require an industrial installations permit from the EA, which Horse Hill currently does not have.
David Lenigas, chair of UK Oil & Gas, which has a stake in Horse Hill, said the site operator had applied for consents and promised the well would be flow tested in 2015. In a series of tweets, he said:
“The EA gives permission for Flow tests. Applications filed and paid for with receipts”.
He also said: “I have Zero knowledge of any suspension. FACT.” And “I’m sick of putting out news releases to say the papers are WRONG”.
Another investor in the well, Solo Oil, said the comments in the national media were misleading. Neil Ritson, the company’s chair, told Proactive Investors: “The project is moving forward We’re waiting for some consents, but we’re always waiting for consents; it’s a hugely complicated regulatory environment in which we operate and we’re rigorous in pursuing that in the right order and at the right time.”
Campaigners against onshore drilling predicted further opposition to the operation at Horse Hill. During the drilling phase in November last year, several campaigners were arrested.
Brenda Pollack, south east campaigner of Friends of the Earth, said:
“When UKOG does apply to carry out further testing there will be a lot of opposition. Many residents don’t want the disruption that will come from extracting oil here. They may have to drill many wells – it’s unlikely to just be a few “nodding donkeys” in a field.”
“We need to leave fossil fuels in the ground and invest in the real alternative of renewable energy sources and cutting energy waste to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”