Monday deadline to comment on future policy for South Downs oil drilling


Markwells Wood well site

There are two more days left to comment on future planning policy for oil and gas exploration and production in West Sussex and the South Downs National Park.

The public consultation on the minerals plan for the area, which sets policy for the next 15 years, closes at 5pm on Monday 13 March 2017.

The draft plan has separate policies for oil and gas developments which use hydraulic fracturing and those that don’t. But some campaigners are concerned that neither policy mentions the use of acid in techniques, such as acidizing and acid fracking.

These techniques involve pumping acid into some limestones and sandstones where the oil will not flow at commercial rates without stimulation. They could be used at a well site at Markwells Wood, in the South Downs National Park, where UK Oil & Gas Investments plc is applying to produce oil for 30 years.

Acid fracking is likely to fall outside the legal definitions of hydraulic fracturing set in the Infrastructure Act. This will mean it will not be subject to the restrictions included in the legislation, such as a ban on fracking in National Parks and at less than 1,000m below the surface.

In November 2016, some members of the South Downs National Park Authority called for stricter controls on the use of acid to stimulate oil-bearing rocks (link). The following month, Sandra James, the county councillor for Markwells Wood, said acidising was “closely aligned” to fracking and should be added to the policy in the minerals plan that covers hydraulic fracturing (link).

The oil industry says acid has been used routinely to clean wells or improve flow rates for almost 120 years.

But opponents of the techniques say acid fracking uses greater concentrations of chemicals than hydraulic fracturing and raises similar planning issues about traffic, flaring and disposal of waste.

Friends of the Earth said:

“There is a lack of evidence showing the impacts of acidising on the environment and communities and therefore the precautionary principle should apply and these operations should not be allowed in the National Park or elsewhere in West Sussex.”

Kathryn McWhirter, a Balcombe resident, said:

“I don’t want to see the South Downs industrialised. I don’t want pollution and our roads jammed up with trucks carrying chemicals. Regardless of the techniques they use, we know that to avoid the worst impacts of climate change we must leave 80% of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground. Our voices can make a difference.”

Opponents of onshore oil and gas developments have also argued that Minerals Plan fails to:

  • Reduce carbon emissions
  • Protect the South Downs National Park and other areas from oil exploration
  • Fully consider the risks of all types of testing and extraction techniques
  • Take on board local concerns about the impacts of oil exploration on landscape, transport and air and water quality


Link to draft minerals plan

Frack Free Sussex information

17 replies »

  1. Another move by vested interest in Fossil Fuel extraction to ride roughshod over the Environmental Concern’s of Communities and those opposed to Environmentally Dangerous Practices !!!

  2. I suppose my proof is laid down in documentary records of the continuing struggle between the anti fracking community and the pro fracking side. In my opinion the anti fracking communities nationwide and globally have a very strong case against the proponents, both industrial and governmental of fracking in almost total disregard to Environmental Consequences !

  3. Surely common sense is enough to tell you that all fracking is a very, very bad idea? Acid fracking sounds like a dangerous development of an already dangerous idea. Given the hideous pollution risk that comes with fracking we must ask “where does the acid end up?” It sounds to me like the already horrific, radioactive chemical soup that ends up lying about in ponds in our countryside will now be violently acidic too! We said “no” we keep saying “no” why is nobody listening?

    • Chem101 taught me that acid in this case HCl will react with calcium rock to form a harmless salt CaCl2. Hope this help a to ease your cocerns and nightmare dreams a little bit.

    • Acid stimulation in oil and gas wells has been going on for 120 years. A lot of water wells are treated with acid to enhance productivity.

      Acid fracture stimulation (where the pressure exceeds the strength of the existing fractures and opens them) has also been undertaken for many years. I managed and supervised what was then the world’s largest ever acid fracture stimulation offshore in the late 1980’s. In fact we broke the record several times. So hardly a new process.

      The volumes are lower than the high volume high pressure shale fracture treatments currently in use for shale oil and gas although the surface pressures will be similar in an acid fracture treatment. But the volume is irrelevant, other than for surface transportation issues (more trucks).

      For education:

      Click to access acidizing-oil-natural-gas-briefing-paper-v2.pdf

      • Paul. Thanks for the explanation which is very educational for me and those interested in facts and learning but for the anti fracking brothers having a few more truck on the road are nightmares and horrendous risk for them. Any industrial activities will bring down the sky through climate change. Anything that is chemical and not organic is poison to the earth and will cause cancer and illness. I just felt that your wisdom and knowledge to the anti frackers and eco warrior will be wasted like water pour over the head of a duck.

    • Nobody listens because most of the professional anti frackers either massively over exaggerate or just plane lie about the supposed risks. Like the radioactive, chemical filled ponds all over the country, what an absolute load of nonsense. Who told you that, it is a complete lie it does not happen in this country. There are lots of places in the world where it does and the protesters are happy to import our gas from them,so it can’t be that that bothers them. And as for the 0acid I can assure you having worked in onshore oil in the Weald Basin for nearly 20 years and having seen just about every well that’s ever been drilled here be acidized, by the time it flows back it is spent and is no longer acidic.

      • Typical [edited by moderator] response to insult the intelligence of the Anti Frackers. It does not happen in this country yet ! But if it does we will see the landscape drastically changed with Fracking pads every few kilometres apart, as in the USA, Australia and other countries which have adopted Fracking as an answer to the Global Energy Crisis. In the USA they have so much land to contaminate per ca-pita than here in the UK. Fossil Fuels should be a commodity of the past, and if it were resigned to history, then the whole planet should rejoice. A whole lot of third world countries might revert to farming produce, instead of fighting over control of those sticky black polluting hydrocarbons !!!

  4. No, no, NO!
    We risk
    Contamination of groundwater.
    Methane pollution and its impact on climate change.
    Air pollution impacts.
    Exposure to toxic chemicals.
    Blowouts due to gas explosion.
    Waste disposal.
    Large volume water use in water-deficient regions.
    Fracking-induced earthquakes.

    All for profit? There are much safer routes to energy.

    • Jan. You are assuming the renewables industry are not in business to make profits. You are wrong. All industries are there to make profit on your needs. Renewables profits on the need of those who see climate change as a risk. Fossil fuel profits on our need of baseload demand. Health care profits on our needs of not getting sick. Well even religion profits on our needs of redemption. So it is a bit double standard to say your anti fracking brigades support doesn’t generate profit. In fact it does because your opposition to home grown energy-efficieny and production generate profit for ME countries that sell natural gas to our country. And they dont pay tax on their profits.

  5. Paul moderator – I think a mistake in the article?

    “The oil industry says acid has been used routinely to clean wells or improve flow rates for almost 1220 years.”

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