2016 onshore oil and gas drilling reaches near 50-year low


The number of onshore oil and gas wells drilled in the UK in 2016 was the lowest for nearly 50 years, according to data from the Oil and Gas Authority.

Five wells were drilled at four sites, all within a 40-mile area of Lincolnshire.

This compared with eight wells drilled in four counties in 2015 and 19 wells in eight counties in 2014.

The last time the number was as low as five was in 1967 and 1968.


The 2016 wells were drilled by three operators: Egdon Resources, Blackland Park Exploration Ltd and Wingas Storage UK Ltd. All the wells were said to be for conventional oil and gas and all spudded (the start of well drilling) between January and March 2016.


Location of wells drilled in 2016

One of the five, at Laughton-1, north of Gainsborough, did not find commercial hydrocarbons and was plugged and abandoned. The operator, Egdon, said the site had been fully restored to agricultural land. That well was near Kiln Lane, a well drilled in 2015 in which Egdon had an interest and was also abandoned.

Egdon also drilled Keddington-5, a sidetrack of the production well, Keddington-4, east of Louth. The new well was designed to target an undrained area of sandstone. The company estimated production of 309,000-566,000 barrels but has not yet confirmed whether the well is commercially productive.

Blackland Park added a well to its Whisby field west of Lincoln and Wingas drilled two wells at its field at Saltfleetby on the coast north of Mablethorpe.

The data from 2016 suggests a continuing downward trend since 2011 (with the exception of a small rise in 2014).

The low oil price could be part of the explanation. But historically, there’s been no clear relationship between oil price and number of wells drilled.

Ken Cronin, chief executive of the onshore industry body, UK Onshore Oil and Gas, put it down to the 14th licensing round announced in December 2015 and confirmed during the past 12 months:

“In 2016 we saw a new onshore licencing round and in a year when there is a fresh licence round you would normally expect less new drilling.”

The previous licensing round, the 13th, was in 2008. That year saw 45 wells drilled, an increase of 11 on the 2007. But  drilling fell to 25 wells in 2009 and 22 in 2010.

Will 2017 see an increase in drilling activity?

Several oil and gas companies have said they have planning permission and are preparing to drill wells at onshore sites during the next 12 months.

  • Cuadrilla at Preston New Road site (site work started 5 January 2016)
  • Europa Oil & Gas at Bury Hill Wood/Holmwod-1, near Dorking in Surrey
  • IGas at Springs Road, Misson in Nottinghamshire
  • Egdon Resources at North Kelsey, near Brigg, in Lincolnshire
  • Union Jack Oil at Biscathorpe near Louth in Lincolnshire
  • Angus Energy at Brockham in Surrey and Lidsey near Bognor Regis in West Sussex
  • UK Oil & Gas Investment at Broadford Bridge-1, near Billingshurst in West Sussex

Who drilled where in 2015?

Who drilled where in 2014?

Who drilled where in 2013?

15 replies »

  1. Hi Michael. Thanks for your comment. You’re right. Third Energy is preparing to work at Kirby Misperton. But the well it has permission to frack has already been drilled – it’s the existing KM8 well. The data I had was for drilling only. Thanks and best wishes, Ruth

  2. Either the risk is becoming to great or companies have just ‘forgotten’ how to make easy money.

    Worrying data for onshore speculators.

        • And exports about 4.7 million bbl/day so net for 2015 was 4.7 million bbl/day imports.

          “From 1970 to 2008, US domestic oil production fell from over 9.6 million barrels a day to about 5 million barrels a day. Since 2008 it has rebounded to roughly 9.4 million barrels a day, though the number of oil rigs operating in the US has fallen considerably over the past year”

          So perhaps shale is quite viable in the US John?

    • Ruth, If I’m reading this correctly, 2017 would represent a yoy increase of at least one hundred percent in terms of wells drilled, correct? I know that Cuadrilla has authorization to drill four, and I am unsure about whether the others have multi-well approvals. This would certainly be a fantastic accomplishment for the industry!

  3. We should aim to make that half or even a quarter of those Bbls/day by 2040 … Big change of mindset needed. Kick the FF dependency and do good for the planet. You/we will feel a lot batter.

    For 2017, I just hope protesters will respect the lorry drivers and won’t stand in their way – they’re just doing their job. It is those politicians and heads of big O&G companies and lobbyists pushing fracking that are are the real maniacs in the driving seat. Next they’ll have to jettison the EU directives on clean air and water to make this work. Brexit will make this possible.

    • I agree Phil. The driver and site workers have nothing to do with the political agenda. They are just trying to to make a living doing their jobs. It is the society that determines these policies. I am sure if there is no need or demand for energy consumption then there will be no company drilling for shale and the protesters will have something else to protest about. Energy supply is a necessity in the modern society and not a luxury as many activists see it from their point of view unfortunately.

  4. Chart of drilling over past 50 years most interesting. After drilling all those wells there must be massive areas blighted by cancer, poisoned water, collapsed property prices etc etc. Where are they please?

    • In America… fracking is yet to take off here. Cancers can take over 10 years after exposure to things like benzene’s so don’t expect sudden blights of cancers. But the dangers are recognised.

  5. Thank you ,Philip. As the great majority of wells on the chart are way over 10 years old I repeat the question. Cancer maybe takes time but what of all the other evils imagined by FoE & co? Not all the old wells were fracked but even conventional wells are sport [edited by moderator].

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