New drilling and testing plans for “Gatwick Gusher”

Horse Hill leaflet

The companies behind the Horse Hill oil well in Surrey, nick-named the Gatwick Gusher, announced details today of its plans for two new wells and more testing at the site.

The proposals were described at an exhibition near Horse Hill attended by a dozen executives, including Stephen Sanderson, executive chairman of the major partner, UK Oil and Gas Investments.

Flow testing for one year

The exhibition described plans for extended flow testing of four sections of the existing well. This was expected to take up to 90 days each, or around a year in total.

Depending on the outcome of the tests, the operating company, Horse Hill Developments Ltd (HHDL), may then drill two new wells.

One would be a horizontal or side-track well off the existing borehole, to target oil in the Kimmeridge Limestones.

The other would be a separate vertical well to target the Portland sandstone formation. Drilling each well would be expected to take 30-60 days and each well would also be flow tested for up to 90 days. Drilling would be a 24-hours a day operation.

Autumn submission

A planning application, for a period of five years, is expected to be submitted to Surrey County Council in mid-September, the company said. An application for an environmental permit would also be submitted around the same time to the Environment Agency.

The company said it proposed to use acidisation to clean the formation. This would a solution of 15% hydrochloric acid, delivered in that concentration to the site. Hot oil treatment may also be needed on the well, the company said. This involves circulating heated oil produced from the well back into it to remove any build of waxes.

HHDL confirmed it did not intend to frack the existing or new wells and the proposed planning application would not include production.

More details

Flaring During the extended flow tests, any gas would be flared off, the company said. Executives said the choice of flare had not been decided but it was likely to be a shrouded type.

During the initial flow tests in February and March, gases were vented, not burned and there were complaints of a hydrocarbon smell. One consultant said the flare had been agreed with Gatwick Airport to avoid bright lights and turbulence.

Truck movements According to the company, the number of truck movements to prepare the site is expected to be 10 in and 10 out. During flow-testing, there would three in and three out per day. During drilling, this could increase to five in and five out per day.

Noise Consultants suggested they would use acoustic screens mounted on scaffolding to reduce noise from the site.

Site preparation According to consultants, HHDL plans to straighten the access road to make it easier to bring in large equipment. Two trees would be felled. Two other trees on the other side of the site may also need to be felled.

Carbon impacts Consultants said the carbon footprint of the scheme had not yet been calculated but would be part of the planning application.

Consultation HHDL said this was the only public meeting planned by the company. The exhibition and accompanying leaflet said:

“We are keen to understand your thoughts about this exhibition and to listen and address any questions or concerns you may have so please feel free to approach the HHDL team today.”

Local community to share Horse Hill oil revenues, UKOG’s boss promises

This report is part of DrillOrDrop’s Rig Watch project. Rig Watch receives funding from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. More details here

3 replies »

    • To be fair if you get gas from oil Malcolm (and it is an oil well) it will have a smell. There will be other smelly fractions in it. What I understand is that methane is not permitted to be vented generally in any significant quantities. Maybe quantities were too small to be put into an enclosed burner?

  1. Again with the scaremongering accusations … very tiresome … and capital letters to boot. This ‘natural gas doesn’t smell’ line is used by industry supporters all the time, although anyone who has investigated any complaints knows that the situation is much more complicated than that, as there are often other gases that come up with the ‘natural gas’.
    There are many recorded instances of people near well-sites complaining about smells. Here are a couple of examples, ALL OF WHICH HAVE BEEN VERIFIED BY THE ENVIRONMENT AGENCY.

    Firstly, here is a report from the Guardian about noxious smells at West Newton:
    This includes the following sentence: A company spokesman said: “There has been a slight odour associated with our ongoing testing operations.” So, obviously testing for gas can result in odours. Even the industry admit that.
    The local people had a somewhat stronger reaction. “The smell is hideous, very distinctive, pungent and nauseous. It comes in waves. It started last week and has continued since. It fades in and out. The area where they are drilling is very rural and the smell drifts easily a mile away. Depending on the wind, it has at times reached villages like West Newton and Withernwick”.

    Here’s another complaint from the same well-site:

    Click to access 20140910-Rathlin-Energy-W-Newton-waste-activity-CAR-REDACTED.pdf

    The Environment agency report says: The flare was acting as a cold vent as the gas/atmosphere being brought up from the well had insufficient flow/calorific value to ignite. The same hydrocarbon type odour detected at off site location 3 was present on the site. There was a strong hydrocarbon type odour on site down wind of the brine tanks, and when officers were leaving the site there was an extremely strong hydrocarbon type odour present on site immediately down wind of the flare stack.”

    And again, from West Newton:

    Click to access 20140828-Rathlin-W-Newton-Installation-CAR-REDACTED.pdf

    Again, the Environment agency reports: 11:05 hrs on site. Very strong smell of gas/H2S in car park on the North boundary of the site adjacent to Flare Industries CEB 4500 gas flare. Smell reported to security 11:15 hrs. Met redacted on site and reported gas smell. Gas levels around flare immediately monitored with a personal gas alarm by redacted and found to be normal for CH4, O2 and H2S. Gas levels monitored between 5 and 10 minutes after initial report to security. No gas alarms triggered.

    More on this on the Frack Free South Yorkshire website, on their incidents page [the contents of which should persuade anyone who thinks the industry is safe and well-regulated to spit out their tea …)

    Sour gas, such as that produced in Ryedale, definitely does smell – hence the name. And Third Energy’s latest leak – which was confirmed by the EA – was triggered because local resident smelt gas that was being vented near the Knapton generating station – see
    And for a blow-by-blow account of Third Energy’s supposedly perfect safety record, may I direct you to this page:

    But then, of course, perhaps the Environment Agency are scaremongering about all these odours at well-sites and are just making this stuff up.

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