Campaign group warns of increasing impacts as Horse Hill well claims “outstanding” flow rates


Horse Hill flow testing. Photo: Eddie Mitchell

The majority investor in the Horse Hill oil well near Gatwick is claiming record UK onshore flow rates.

After completing initial flow tests, UK Oil & Gas described the results this morning as “outstanding” and equivalent to rates from the North Sea.

In a statement it said it would now seek permission for extended production tests at the site on the edge of Horley.

It also said it would apply for a horizontal side-track well and, possibly, a new development well. The current planning permission is for the existing vertical well and short-term testing only.

The statement coincided with a warning from Frack Free Surrey of increasing numbers of wells and impacts across the county.

Flow testing

Flow testing at Horse Hill began in February. The operation tested the Upper and Lower Kimmeridge and the Upper Portland.

UKOG said this morning the aggregate flow from the three layers had been 1,688 barrels per day. 14 tankers of oil had been sent to the Fawley refinery. The results had caused UKOG to “rethink and recalibrate” its assumptions, the company said.

Its executive chairman, Stephen Sanderson, said:

“The flow test results are outstanding, demonstrating North Sea-like oil rates from an onshore well. This simple vertical well has achieved an impressive aggregate oil rate equivalent to 8.5% of total UK onshore daily oil production.”

“We are delighted, therefore, that this discovery has the serious prospect of being a meaningful addition to the UK’s own supply of oil in a period where North Sea production is declining more rapidly than expected.”

Neil Ritson, chairman of Solo Oil, another investor in the well, said the tests, which cost about £1m had been “money well spent”.

He told Proactive Investors this was the first time the Lower Kimmeridge has been tested successfully with rates of over 450 barrels a day. He said rates of 900 barrels a day from the Upper Kimmeridge was the highest ever achieved. And the flow from the Upper Portland was among the highest of UK onshore wells.

The share price of UKOG closed down 7% at 2.22p while Solo Oil was unchanged at 0.34p.

Complaints and opposition

Since the tests began, there have been complaints from local people about smells from the site, spills, noise, light, discharges into a ditch and damage to local roads.

Volunteers and staff at a local equestrian centre, next to the site, were reported to have  experienced nosebleeds and headaches. Horses had been kept inside because of concerns about their health. GetSurrey report

Horse Hill 4 160219

Protesters have attempted to disrupt activities by slow-walking deliveries to Horse Hill and locking-on to vehicles. A camp established at the junction of Horse Hill and Reigate Road.

Stephen Sanderson yesterday accused protesters of “scaremongering” and including “hardcore anarchists” who “preyed on the local population”.

Co-Chair of East Surrey Green Party, Sarah Finch, who is supporting campaigners, said:

“It might be easy for the oil companies to dismiss these protests, but what we’re seeing are local communities in our towns and villages rising up over the hunger of the oil companies to squeeze every last drop of oil from our countryside.”

“The planning system looks at these applications on an individual basis but the cumulative impact could be very significant across the South East”.


Yesterday, Frack Free Surrey quoted Mr Sanderson as saying:

“This type of oil deposit very much depends on being able to drill your wells almost back to back so it becomes very much like an industrialised process … Generally you have to drill a lot wells close to each other so you can maintain a certain level of production.”

The group warned:

“As more and more wells are drilled, the impacts [air pollution, traffic, leaking wells] accumulate and it is the cumulative impacts of this industrialisation which eventually becomes the dominant factor.”

Keith Taylor, MEP for South East England, said the scientific consensus on climate change had never been greater. The best chance we had of averting catastrophe, he said, was to leave large reserves of oil in the ground. He siad:

“The extraction of oil at sites like Horse Hill not only risks damaging our environment and health, it is a distraction from the work that must be done to build a sustainable future based on a low carbon, democratic energy system.”


There are currently two petitions urging Surrey County Council to adopt a policy preventing unconventional techniques, including fracking. One, with a signing deadline of August 2016, said:

“Findings to date from scientific, medical, and journalistic investigations combine to demonstrate that unconventional and invasive techniques including high volume hydraulic fracturing poses significant threats to air, water, health, public safety, climate stability, seismic stability, community cohesion, and long term economic vitality.”

The other, which is open until 22nd April 2016, said: “Evidence shows that regulations are simply not capable of preventing harm”.

Link to UKOG statement

Link to Frack Free Surrey report

Link to petitions

Link to Horse Hill planning permission

Updated: 22/3/16 to include quotes from Sarah Finch and Keith Taylor

8 replies »

  1. Nose bleeds and headaches? Seems odd that hundreds of people living and working on offshore platforms producing hundreds of thousands of barrels per day and flaring thousands of cubic feet of gas per day for many years survive okay. I don’t recall outbreaks of nose bleeds and headaches during well testing. There are no horses offshore but I know they don’t like wind turbines. This is down south in the heart of Tory land. And no fracking. So not much to complain about?

  2. I agree, what is there to complain about? Investigations into ‘smell’ have turned up nothing. the usual scaremongering by anti people that has no substance. Even if it was true, are farmers stopped from spreading slurry?
    Perhaps people should visit Wytch Farm in Poole Harbour, with its 100+ wells that are from 10 wellpads, and virtually invisible. Production pipelines are in place and all buried, 2 wells go under Sandbanks, the millionaires retreat and nobody knows or cares. That’s because well planned drilling is a very low impact affair. The comments above indicate the opinions who simply do not want to accept that multiwell drill pads surrounded by trees in discrete locations can be sorted easily.
    Of course, if they are all anti carbon zealots, (I gather professional stirrer and conspiracy theorist Ian R Crane is there a lot) then nothing is going to bother them, especially the truth. This could be a great boon to our economy, and those that say we should not use oil shouls ensure they use no carbon fuels themselves. That means walking or cycling everywhere, and not heating your home.


    ”Seismic surveys, such ones used in exploration of oil and geological studies, are very similar in intensity to short military sonar, *******but they are more deadly because they are set for weeks or even months.****** (Cummings) When speaking of seismic activity, the sound impulses are produced by ejecting bubbles of air. Airguns, a source of this seismic noise, expel 30 to 800 cubic inches of air per shot. They are like air cannons and are either used singularly or collectively to create one massive sound that uses up to 8080 cubic inches of air per shot. (Cummings) These seismic surveys are being used all over the world, in places such as the continental shelves, which is the most common region, as well as the North Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and areas around Australia, Venezuela, Brazil, and Alaska. (Cummings)………………

    This noise pollution impairs and interferes with proper functioning of marine mammalsÕ acoustic perceptual system. There are known cases of beached whales and dolphins that show not only long-term hearing loss, but definite tissue damage such as hemorrhaging in their ears, and lesions caused by bubble formation and expansion in the tissues. Other proven signals that this noise is causing damage in marine mammals is increased stress, avoidance and change of swimming patterns according to where the sound is generated from. (Cummings) ”

    The ears nose and mouth are interconnected channels, therefore while we may not see nosebleeds in marine mammals the fact they shows signs of impact from oil and gas drilling, gives enough evidence to shore up the fact that humans too are vulnerable to debilitating impacts from seismic monitors, which emit ear damaging drone like noises over long periods of time. Not only this, animals using radar such as bats, and other wildlife will also be affected in regions where fracking or oild drilling with accompanying noise polluting seismic monitors are placed.

  4. Not a lot of whales around Horse Hill – only people and horses. Onshore seismic uses vibrators and / or dynamite. Velocity surveys (VSP) run on wireline to calibrate seismic post drilling may use an air gun in a purpose built water pit. If you are worried about bats you need to look at wind turbines (the small fast spinning ones) and mobile phone masts.

    Seismic monitors (geophones) do not emit anything. They are exactly what the name implies – monitors (microphones).

    If you are worried about wildlife in general have a look at grouse shooting and what moorland management for grouse shooting does to wildlife(eliminates everything except red grouse). Even mountain hares are being culled on Scottish grouse moors to protect grouse. And look at what it does to water pollution which is one of your big concerns.

  5. I am so tired of reading about Wytch Farm being used as a comparison to fracking for shale gas which it clearly is not – well here is what Professor Richard Davies has to say on the matter – and he has a bit more experience of the gas and oil industry than a retired physics teacher that spent 12 years in the industry decades ago.

    “Prof Davies explained that unlike fracking for conventional oil and gas, fracking for shale gas requires multiple wells and has only happened in Lancashire so far, where it caused a small earthquake.
    Durham University has published peer-reviewed papers explaining that earthquakes and contamination of aquifers are unlikely with this sort of fracking.
    However he did say that it could cause the “industrialisation” of the countryside because of the number of wells and the traffic.
    In northern England alone it will require “thousands” of wells to extract just ten per cent of the shale gas reserves, he said.’

    And this is exactly why people are concerned – thousands of wells and industrialisation of the countryside and note that he states contamination is unlikely but NOT ruled out. Furthermore Prof Davies has just produced a paper saying that local air pollution is increased by 30% from one fracking well. I am sure if the villagers near Wytch Farm had to put up with thousands of wells, noise, traffic, air pollution etc they would feel exactly the same as people living in shale areas.

  6. KT – Just out of interest how long did Prof. Davies work in the Oil and Gas Industry before moving into academia? Note that I am an admirer of Prof. Davies and some of his work.

      • Hello Paul – agreed you are an expert 🙂 And I seem to recall we aren’t a million miles apart in our outlook from previous communications. I guess the difference is that Professor Davies has continued to undertake relevant research and be directly involved with the industry whilst Mr W became a physics teacher. Not that I have anything against physics teachers – but…….
        I have spoken with engineers that are very experienced like you and that have also worked in the unconventional industry and they too have concerns about it – like Professor Davies they say it will industrialise the countryside and traffic, noise etc will be an issue because of the number of wells. I am fed up with the lack of honesty and transparency from this industry.

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