People living near the Horse Hill oil well in Surrey have complained to the Environment Agency about smells during flow tests yesterday.
This morning, one of the investors in the well, UK Oil and Gas, reported oil was flowing at a rate of more than 436 barrels a day during the test – better than predicted.
The executive chairman, Stephen Sanderson said the test proved oil could be brought to the surface at “excellent flow rates”. He said:
“This is a very significant event for the company and for oil and gas activity in the Weald Basin of southern England.”
A police officer confirmed the smell link to video and local people living near the well on the edge of Horley have reported symptoms including skin rash, vomiting, nausea and breathing discomfort.
They have complained that despite at least five reports to the Environment Agency (EA) no one from the organisation has come to monitor air quality at the site.
DrillOrDrop asked the EA yesterday afternoon what action it was taking. The EA responded on Thursday 18th February. You can read the response in full here.
We also put the local complaints to the PR company for the operator. We have not had a reply.
The Horse Hill Protection Group (HHPG), which opposes drilling at the site, has collected samples from what it said was a plastic outflow pipe from the site.
It said this afternoon.
“The people affected are a mixture of local residents and Protectors. As no one from the EA seems to be responding to our reports HHPG advise everyone to avoid the area south of the drill site.”
Lisa Scott, one of the people who reported the smell, lives half a mile from the well. She noticed it during a morning run.
“It was not a fast or longer run than normal but at three points near the site I felt short of energy. I normally run 10-12k and never stop. But this was only 4-4.5k. It was like running through an invisible plume three times. I felt something strange. I needed to walk in case I fell. I could feel it in my lungs.”
There were also reports of hydrocarbon and sulphurous smells.
“It came in waves”
Alex Gache, who runs Lomond Classical Riding Centre next to the wellsite, said friends at Charlwood, to the south, had also smelt it.
“It came in waves. It was not pleasant.”
She said it reminded her of a gassy smell that came from the site when the well was being drilled in 2014.
“I asked the company then what the smell was and they said it was human waste being burned. That was their answer.”
Asked whether she had concerns about her horses, she said:
“I have concerns about the whole thing for my animals. I cannot believe any of this is good for them at all. But nothing is going to stop it. They tell us it is perfectly safe.”
“Excellent flow rates”
Yesterday’s seven-hour operation at Horse Hill tested the flow of oil in the lower Kimmeridge target at about 900m below the surface.
Mr Sanderson said:
“The flow test, the first ever in the lower Kimmeridge limestone within the Weald Basin, provides proof that significant quantities of moveable oil exist within the Kimmeridge section of the well and can be brought to surface at excellent flow rates.”
The company’s share price rose 41% on the day, to 1.98p and Mr Sanderson said the flow could get better:
“While these flow rates are significant and in excess of management’s expectations, it should be borne in mind that the planned future use of a horizontal well and appropriate conventional reservoir stimulation techniques could likely increase flow rates even further.”
He said the company would start applying for environmental permits to begin production.
“We look forward to more news from the final test results from the Lower Kimmeridge limestone and the shallower tests. The Company will be starting the regulatory permit process forthwith, so we can return to the well to seek to demonstrate sustainable commercial production.”
Updated 22/2/16 to include link to police officer’s confirmation of the smell