Case dropped against Horse Hill fracking protester but trial of 9 others gets underway

Guildford Magistrates banner

Anti-fracking banner outside Guildford Magistrates Court this afternoon

The case against an anti-fracking protester arrested during demonstrations outside the Horse Hill exploratory oil site near Gatwick Airport was dropped this afternoon.

The Crown Prosecution Service said it was offering no evidence against Kieran Dunne, one of ten people on trial at Guildford Magistrates Court on charges arising from protests earlier this year.

Mr Dunne had denied the charge against him and his case was dismissed.

The court also began to hear the charges against nine other Horse Hill protesters. The cases all date back to February and March 2016, when flow testing was taking place at the site near Horley.

Isabella Bish, Thomas Burke, Paddy Horne, Stephen Jackson, Neil Lamony, David Powter, Daniel Nye andGeorge Stubbs  all deny obstructing the highway during protests to slow down lorries arriving and leaving the site.

A ninth protester also denies obstructing the highway. DrillOrDrop has decided not to name him after he said identification put his physical wellbeing at risk. He said this was because he had received personal physical threats, reported to Surrey Police, from people who described themselves as investors in Horse Hill.

Jonathan Edwards, prosecuting, said officers from Surrey Police had used a five-step warning process before making arrests. The protesters argued that either the warnings were not given, an obstruction was not caused or the obstruction was justified because of their right to assembly and freedom of expression.

PC Simon Ramsay, of Surrey Police, told the court he had used the five-step warning process before arresting Isabelle Bish on 16 February 2016. He said she had walked in front of a lorry leaving the site. After her arrest, he said:

“She was not happy about it. She shouted about being pregnant. There was a lot of shouting about law suits and unlawful arrests.”

Video shown to the court did not record Ramsay giving the five-step warnings. But he said he had seen footage which did show him using the process with Miss Bish.

District Judge William Ashworth said:

“It might have helped the prosecution if you had shown that footage”.

Laura Collier, defending, put it to PC Ramsay that Miss Bish was walking at normal pace.

PC Ramsay replied “What is normal pace?”

Ms Collier, referring to the video, said “Don’t you consider that is normal pace?”

PC Ramsay said: “I suppose so”.

The court also heard from another Surrey officer, PC Tate, who said he used the five-step warning before he arrested George Stubbs. He had taken part in a protest later that day involving another lorry, PC Tate said.

He said at stage five, Mr Stubbs “jumped off the road” and the lorry went past. But then, PC Tate said, Mr Stubbs ran down the road and jumped in front of the lorry again.

The officer said he later arrested Mr Stubbs at a protest camp established away from the site entrance.

The trial continues tomorrow (Tuesday 14 June 2016) but transfers to South East Surrey Magistrates Court in Redhill.

Also today, charity fundraiser James Randle admitted obstructing the highway during a slow walk protest outside Horse Hill on 25 February 2016. He was given a conditional discharge and ordered to pay costs totalling £165.

The case against Patrick Woolman, another protester at Horse Hill, has been adjourned because he is ill. He denies obstructing the highway.

Updated on 14/6/2016 to include paragraph 6.

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23 replies »

  1. Why is this reported as ‘fracking’. There was no fracking at the test, and none proposed AFAIK. The rocks are naturally permeable and fractured and didnt need any treatment, and gave a good flow (1600 BOPD.

    • Hello Ken
      Thanks for your comment. The evidence of the court case, from both the prosecution and the defence barristers, was that the people involved were protesting about fracking. That’s the reason why I used the word fracking.
      Best wishes, Ruth

      • OK Ruth, though I always find it odd that everything to do with drilling is described as one specialised process called fracking. A bit like the Balcombe protest (which first stirred my interest in this subject). I couldnt understand people protesting about shale gas fracking at a conventional limestone well that had no plans for fracking!

  2. Ken – A HVHPHF is not technically appropriate for the Kimmeridge Limestone and would achieve little at great cost. If it was my well I would be looking at a nice big acid frack to increase productivity. Several hundred thousand gallons of 28% HCl should do the trick.

    • Because Ken all “FRACKING” Protestors have not a clue what they are protesting about! Here in Balcombe we have plenty that are basically STOOPID !

  3. John – we have it in our stomach naturally as part of our digestive juices – albeit only at around 1% concentration.

    No 9 on the list via the link:

    Should we ban it’s use in all ten processes? I expect most on this board will be against it’s use – even though we put it in swimming pools.

    It is fairly straightforward to hadle and use in oilfield stimulation at 28% but becomes a little difficult to use at concentrations > 40%.

    I have no idea if there is any intention to use it at Horse Hill but my experience would lead me to believe that i probably should be, even if it is just used as a wash.

    • Yes Paul – I’ve known that since “O” level biology. My dog has it at about 10 times the concentration in my own stomach which is why she can digest bones that I would struggle with. I’m not suggesting it should be banned but I do get irritated when Ken tries to pretend that at transport concentration (usually around 30%) it is not hazardous. He keeps saying this in spite of ample evidence to the contrary. Mind you he claimed that those Canadian quakes weren’t caused by fracking yesterday, so perhaps we shouldn’t pay so much attention to him 🙂

      • So what concentration level kills fish then I wonder………do fishlegal know about this……………..? Also wondering if such levels migrating into drinkwater in a couple of years time are harmful to humans and babies, or are we just dispensable sacrifices on the altar of fracking.

        • HCl is used extensively in the food industry and drinking water – and swimming pools.

          For fish:

          Depends on if the acid / spent acid reduces the PH and by how much. This depends on size of water course, volume and PH of discharge.

          I recall Fishlegal have pursued cases concerning sulphuric acid discharges into rivers or streams.

    • Stimulation of wells with acid was first used in the 1930’s. Many wells in the north sea have been stimulated with acid, HCl and / or HF (to a lesser extent). Many North Sea wells (which I hope you would agree are “conventional” in the sense they are producing from sedimentary sandstone and or limestone reservoirs) have been stimulated with acid at one time or another. It is no big deal. There are purpose built vessels to undertake these operations e.g.

      I do know something about this as in the 1980’s I was the ops manager in an operation where we conducted what was at that time the world’s largest offshore acid fracture stimulation – in a fractured limestone reservoir. Maximum surface pressure was limited by equipment specifications to 10,000psi. It is simple to replicate this onshore.

      • Good to see someone with real knowledge posting Paul. I dont understand the HCl concerns. At 38%, HCl releases fumes of Hydrogen Chloride gas, that is very unpleasant (and classed as toxic, as it will blister your lungs)

        At lower concentrations it does not fume at all, and is classed as corrosive above 25% and irritant below that. The thing most people dont understand is that HCl is strongly hydrophilic. It loves to stick with water and as such it is no more an issue than dozens of other chemicals that are regularly trucked around our roads.

        • None, the treatment is designed to expend all the acid in the formation which was 13,000ft below the seabed. The flow back PH is monitored to check the acid is spent. There is little point in pumping acid down a well and then dumping the acid in the ocean. Waste of money, waste of time and no increase in well productivity. You can see the acid work by monitoring the pump pressure, as it acidises the carbonate limestone, the surface pressure drops off. The seabed is not exposed to any acid – how could this be possible?

          Limestone plus HCl = CaCl2 + CO2 + H2O

          The Persian Gulf has plenty of these in it already.

          The volume of the Persian Gulf (where this job took place) is 8,630 km3. I forget how much acid we pumped but it was probably around 100,000 gallons for all stages including the acid. Or 450,000 liters. A drop in the ocean as they say.

          As I have mentioned before, you would be better to look at agriculture and commercial fishing for pollution and marine damage. And raw sewage storm dumping exemptions.

          An acid job like this onshore may have some flowback disposal problems – but this depends on the design and success of the job, and the return PH.

  4. Stephen Sanderson, UKOG ‘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.’

  5. We in Balcombe and elsewhere are perfectly well aware of the chemistry around the use of hydrochloric acid. I was simply noting with interest Paul T’s use of the term ‘acid frack’. ‘Historic’ because back in the day before protests, when you could talk your own language without worrying about revolting communities, you industry guys were happy to call a frac’ a frac’ (whether high volume, low volume, acid, whatever). And then, oh dear, the term became toxic, best avoided. I was also pointing up the semantic play around the term conventional. Neat definition to me seems to be that conventional = flows easily through properly permeable rock, whereas unconventional = tight, won’t flow without ‘stimulation’. Conventional formations, conventional oil and gas, conventional techniques – the work is used to qualify all those things.I suspect they wouldn’t get much out of the Kimmeridge limestone without acidising, acid fracking, whatever vocab you choose. And then once/if they have accessed the easier gloop in the chalkier strata, well then we suspect that they will target the shale with HVHF, slick water and all.

    It was interesting how the government wanted to slip hydrofluoric acid into those ‘standard rules’ – those things companies might do without specific planning scrutiny. We think the revolting community of Balcombe had something to do with the removal of HFl from the standard rules. Which doesn’t mean that companies can’t apply specifically to use it. Nasty stuff.

    Acidisation brings its own risks of water and air pollution, it would require a very large number of wells across the Weald, serious industrialisation. Stephen Sanderson of UKOG was recorded saying: ‘(Horse Hill) is located in the South East of England, just north of Gatwick, and perhaps, you know, the game changing part of it really is what lies underneath and that’s a very thick sequence of oil-bearing shales and limestones that we sort of call tight oil. We are dealing with quite a pervasive type of deposit over our area, that’s 55 square miles but I think more importantly, you know, these deposits extend over 1,200 square miles or so or more of the Weald. So if we can put a commercial development together, then clearly you know, you can have incremental step-outs over quite a large area. 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, erm, an industrialised process. Because that’s how you get the improvements in cost and efficiencies, the flow at the start of the year when you put the well on, compared to the flow at the end of that year can decline by 60 or 70 % or so, so generally you have to drill a lot of wells close to each other so you can maintain a certain level of production. The potential to actually increase the flow rate using horizontal drilling and stimulation is very considerable. I mean, we’d definitely come back to this well, we want to put it on to a much longer long-term production test. The biggest issue we have, in fact the whole of the industry has in the UK onshore, is the time it takes to get permissions to do anything. Hopefully we’re meeting with the government fairly shortly in the coming weeks on quite a high level to see if we can fast track this process.’

    ‘Tight… incremental step-outs…drill your wells almost back to back…very much like an industrialised process… flow at the end of that year can decline by 60 or 70% so generally you have to drill a lot of wells close to each other so you can maintain a certain level of production.’ No, no, no.

    • What I find worrying about the use of ”conventional” is how it gets confused with ”therefore acceptable” due to it being around for so long.

      Conventional drilling cause phenomenal problems (although the chancellor is quite happy to ignore those due to the massive amount of revenue coming in from it) and little is reported in the public domain about how damaging ”conventional drilling is. Trying to track the drills, spills and kills via public sites proves onerous, though I have collected some data about how dangerous the activity has been over the decades it has been deployed.

      We do ourselves no favours to equate ”conventional drilling ” with always been around and therefore safe, as this is a non sequitor the industry relies upon, and I would say a fuller investigation than I have done, into the high hazards connected to it but show it is one of the worst polluting industrialisations mankind has ever delivered to the environment.

  6. In case you are interested hydroflouric acid is used for sandstone reservoirs as it dissolves silica matrix and I believe some clay minerals. Difficult to handle (eats glass) – unlike HCl which is staight forward.

    If you want any well that is stimulated placed in the “unconventional” category then a lot of north sea wells must be reclassified as unconventional.

    They got 1,600bopd out of the Kimmeridge at Horse Hill without stimulation?

  7. Apparently Paul, and from a vertical well. If they do laterals that would increase production loads. Good 40 API sweet oil apparently (IIRC). The shale is naturally fractured, but they got some from the overlying conventional formations.

    Kathryn, acidification is a very standard oil and well treatment, for corrosion control if nothing else. High concentrations are for etching and dissolving the rock, opening up the holes or gaps. It isnt a pollution problem as its very reactive, and easily diluted. It would be difficult to see how this could get anywhere where it could cause a problem. It is ‘spent’ a very short time after it is injected, and produces non hazardous products. Thats why the Environment Agency licence it as a ‘non hazardous’ material.

    • UKOG told the local residents group that they acidified, Their permits allowed them to acidify. Protesters saw acids going in. Being so low on the old Darcys, the K clay and the micrite of the Weald will require wells back to back’. Who cares how standard it is? All that is standard is not good. Burning oil is not good! Communities want neither fracking, nor acidification nor coal bed methane, nor underground coal gasification. All are detrimental to environment, health, amenity, farming, tourism, quality of life. We have a right to quality of life. That is more important than the profits of the oil industry or the immoral (in my view) oil taxes garnered by government. We will not accept our countryside being industrialised and trashed. For what? For a tiny proportion of the energy we use. We will not accept the resulting waste, the outrageous water use We will not be bullied by the oil and gas industry and government. Incidentally the EA classified HCl as non-hazardous back in 2010 at under 10% solution. By 2014 it was OK to use 15%. But as I said, we understand the chemistry of HCl. Ken (and sorry Ruth) in principle I have no further wish to engage with you so over and out.

    • So how much high polluting naturally occurring materials does that then mingle with before being extracted or left in there to migrate laterally—easier in tight shale as reports from the US show. And how much radioactivity gets stirred up due to this acidification and also migrates laterally with frack fluid for years to come eventually emerging upwards on land or into aquatic environments?

      Also, what to do about the fact that the wells collecting the frack fluid are renowned for deteriorating upwards of twenty years after building, leaving behind, post fracking a legacy of high pollution and who is going to pay for the clean up?

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