Horse Hill neighbours complain about smell as oil company celebrates “significant” test result


Photo: Eddie Mitchell

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.

Outlet pipe Jon O'Houston

Photo: Jon O’Houston

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

27 replies »

  1. So, every time something positive happens, local residents will fall down, feel ill, horses will ‘die’ etc. Skin rash, nausea? Oh really. Its a standard complaint that does not match with my 12 years in the industry, or anyone else I know. Perhaps its just NIMBYS who want to have fuel to power their BMWs, and heat their houses, but refuse to accept any tiny inconvenience. Better to get Russia to send us their energy so they can bomb more in Syria/Chechnya or wherever.

    Oh, by the way, the plastic overflow is a consequence of having a totally secure wellpad. If it rains, then the water will not soak into the ground, as its prevented by the chemical proof membrane. That means it needs to be disposed of after being tested for pollutants, into a local river. Totally normal and no issue whatsoever.

    • If the residents are correct there is a significant problem. The results from previous drilling in the 1960s indicated high levels of sulphur dioxide, the rotten egg odour.

      • The OKOG reports 40 API SWEET oil, which means no hydrogen sulphide. For your info, rotten egg odour is H2 S, not SO2. Its also called sour gas. If it did exist it can be treated and sorted.

    • Speaking of waste, I’m pretty sure I saw an article reporting on waste water being dumped into the Manchester shipping canal.

  2. They all lie to get their ways. Quite shameless really. What kind of world and society we are coming to. No respect for the truth and honesty.

      • Oh really? Operators have to make everything public, including well logs/chemicals used, and all of their plans. The EA are subject to FOI claims and so all is public.

        Meanwhile anti groups say that toxic chemical will be used (false), that well leaks are a problem (false) that farming will be affected (false), that the countryside will be industrialised (false), that there will be air pollution (false) that there is no regulation (false) and on and on, in a non stop tirade of nonsense.

        But feel free to say the operators lie, it is a free country after all, but the nonsense you have written is then open to ridicule by people who are actually informed.

      • Up here our Council asked IGas to provide a copy of an alleged great Crested Newt Habitat survey for a proposed CBM site. IGas refused to acknowledge the request. When the Public repeated the request, IGas refused to release a copy of the survey and merely stated that it would neither confirm nor deny the presence of Great Crested Newts in the area.

        IGas has also been formally approached to confirm whether another CBM site in the area will be moving to full production (the exploration phase was completed years ago). IGas has refused to respond.

        What I can say is that this industry simply cannot back up its claims of transparency and engaging with the community – awkward questions simply get ignored or twisted by the spin machine.

        But while we are at it, industry claims such a fracking well using the same total water as a golf course does in a month well, make your own mind up……


      • Really – I would say that based upon your posts you would not easily recognise the truth – if anything you demonstrate a level of arrogance only superseded by your ignorance of even the most basics of chemistry

  3. Quite laughable really, how the industry writes the vast majority of the comments here, hoping to influence public opinion with their lies.
    Nobody wants this filthy, polluting industry in their backyard, or anywhere on the planet for that matter! They don’t want to burn fossil fuels when the rest of the world is embracing renewables. Of course I expect rebuttals from people who purport to be individuals, but actually are paid PR people trying to extend the life of this ageing dinosaur that is carbon. Only people who are paid by the industry could ever want it to continue, and even they are short-sighted. Take a long hard look at yourselves, eventually the Earth will become uninhabitable.

    • You do write a load of twaddle. The rest of the world’s embracing renewables eh? Like India & China, both upping their use of coal, with unreliables producing a minor part of their energy needs. I assume that you don’t use any transport powered by fossil fuels, running on synthetic rubber tyres, indeed isn’t mass-produced, don’t use gas to cook with or heat your house, don’t wear cloths other than ones with natural fibres, hand-woven and not died with anything other than vegetable products, don’t use any plastics, hold on, how are you commenting on here?
      You’re prolonging “Carbon” aren’t you.
      Yet another one of the Green Hypocrits.
      I do expect the Earth to become uninhabitable, in around 5 billion years, as the Sun runs out of Hydrogen to fuse and turns to Helium, thus entering red giant stage.

    • Sorry to disappoint you, but just because we refuse to be taken in by your scaremongering and anecdotal rubbish about “nasty smells” doesn’t mean we work for an oil company PR department. We are just people who have done a bit more research than you.

      If you want to see real pollution, check out the situation in China where they are mining for ‘rare earth metals’. They are an essential part of the ‘renewable’ tech such as solar panels and wind turbines that you love so much:

      Mind you, I don’t see any of the anti-frackers going over to China to demonstrate about genuine pollution. It’s much easier waving a banner around in the cosy English countryside than risking imprisonment in China.

  4. KW ( 8.03 pm ) going on about Russia and Syria.
    TW ( 11,34 pm ) who now accuses ALL the residents living near Horse Hill of lying.

    DO YOU HONESTLY expect ordinary people to take you seriously with such
    comments ???

  5. Lisa Scott as quoted in the article is a committed activist against such things. She is also spouting arrant nonsense and is clearly suffering from some form of psychosomatic disorder if a she claims, the test drill affected her run. How does she imagine runners successfully run through traffic laden towns and cities?

  6. Did Natalie Bennett notice any smell & mention it to Steve Sanderson when she visited the site yesterday?

    Surely she wouldn’t miss such an opportunity?

  7. What did Lisa have for breakfast? Running on a full tummy has been known to result in invisible plumes at unexpected moments..

Add a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s