Reaction to approval of drilling and testing plans for Horse Hill oil site


Horse Hill wellsite. Photo: Horse Hill Developments Ltd

Councillors in Surrey approved plans this afternoon for another two wells at the Horse Hill oil exploration site near Gatwick Airport.

The county council’s planning committee also approved proposals for extended flow testing at the existing and new wells.

The vote, of eight in favour and two abstentions, came after less than 40 minutes, with no discussion from councillors. DrillOrDrop report on the committee hearing.

The Horse Hill oil site made national headlines in 2016 when the operator, Horse Hill Developments Ltd, announced flow rates said to be equivalent to the North Sea. The site is exploring for oil in the Kimmeridge limestone and Portland formations.

Oil company


UKOG’s Stephen Sanderson speaking to Surrey County Council planning committee, 18 October 2017. Photo: Surrey County Council webcast

The main investor in the Horse Hill well, UK Oil & Gas Investments plc, welcomed the decision. Its executive chairman, Stephen Sanderson, spoke at the committee meeting. This evening he said:

“This is welcome news for the planned Horse Hill Portland and Kimmeridge
appraisal programmes, both of which are key steps towards our goal of
delivering stable first oil production by early 2019.

“Horse Hill operations are scheduled to follow the current Broadford Bridge-1z flow testing and will build upon and benefit from the many learnings and insights gained to
date. I look forward to HHDL’s return to Horse Hill.”

Green Party politician

Keith Taylor 170720 Jono Houston

Keith Taylor MEP at UKOG’s oil exploration site at Broadford Bridge in West Sussex. 20 July 2017. Photo: Jon O’Houston

Keith Taylor, Green Party MEP for southern England, criticised the council for approving the planning application without discussion. He said this afternoon:

 “Surrey County Council is made up of politicians elected to represent their communities and constituents. With that in mind, it is shameful that councillors have today waved through approval for 24-hour-a-day destructive drilling at Horse Hill without even so much as a discussion. It seems one of the first casualties of the Conservative government’s dash for unconventional fossil fuel extraction is democracy itself.

“Worryingly, despite there being no discussion between councillors, the decision to approve the proposals came shortly after UKOG made a presentation extolling the importance of exploiting fossil fuels – flying in the face of the overwhelming climate science consensus.

“Our legally-binding climate targets under both the Paris Agreement and the Climate Change Act – which the Government has already revealed the UK is set to miss – make it clear that the best chance we have of averting catastrophe is by keeping fossil fuel reserves in the ground.”



20 replies »

  1. Just shows that, like at the NYCC when KM8 was approved, Conservative councillors are never actually going to listen to the views of local people, or to the evidence presented to them. The decision was already made in the back room long beforehand, handed down by central government and councillors instructed to toe the party line. Who cares if the local people don’t want it? What’s it got to do with them?

    • Thats probably because opposition is a small number if ill informed individuals who use oil yet want to protest against it Ellie. Wytch Farm has operated 100 wells around Poole for decades almost unnoticed. There are many other small oilfields in the Weald basin. Opposition is based on fear of the unknown, yet evidence is that people do not notice well planned developments. People whip up fears about ‘fracking’ which is not planned, and then get all upset about ‘acidising’ which is a standard procedure, with over 100 years of safe history.

      If people want to protest about climate change issues they should not confuse those issues with the safety of low risk onshore drilling, and low risk shale gas.

  2. That’s a real comfort when there will be multi head wells every mile or so , only an investor would spout such rubbish . 100 years hahaha Even Sanderson has admitted that its untested method and to make it commercial it needs back to back wells , this is tight geology and as they are finding at Broadford bridge it cant be drilled safely.

    • Of course it’s more economic to drill several Wells on a pad at the same time. It costs a lot of time, effort and money to keep demobilising and then remobilising all the equipment to just drill one Well.

      There is nothing unsafe about the Broadford Bridge Well, a problem with the cement job behind the liner has resulted in a lack of zonal isolation between two zones. It is going to be repaired by a cement squeese – a process that has been used on many, many Wells to do just that.

  3. Ken seems you have not availed your self of the evidence that fossil fuels contribute to climate change, damages the local environment and lives. What the oil industry has managed to hide has now been proven in court cases, pipes leak over time. There are safer alternatives, but the short term greed of investors seems to outweigh the greater good, therefore it’s totally unethical to follow this downtrodden chemical soaked path.

  4. Ellie-why do you think this type of development is any different to any other? Locals would stop just about any development based upon your logic, so we have a planning system which takes into account many factors, of which local opinion is one relatively small part. There is no such thing as local UDI in respect of such projects. Have you never observed the process for new housing? This is no different.

    As Ken states, there are many small oilfields producing already in the UK, and not only in the Weald. Wytch Farm referred to, is the largest European on-shore oil site, surrounded by extremely high priced houses, nature reserves and some of the wells travelling under one of the best in shore marine areas around our coasts. Visitors to the site state quite openly it is a great example of how industry can be placed into a sensitive area without adverse impact.
    Other smaller sites can be found in Lincolnshire and I know local residents who are totally unaware of their presence.

    I feel an opportunity to reduce many of the oil tankers coming up the Channel into the Solent could be quite an environmental improvement-remember the Torrey Canyon? Suspect not-try Giggling it.

  5. Didn’t take long for the “investor”, “climate change” cards to be played!

    Both comments made by pressing send on a plastic keyboard, or similar device, as they arrived too quickly for the pre oil carrier pigeon system to have worked.
    And by the way-there have been NO safety issues at Broadford Bridge. I realise the choice of words was deliberate, but also it was factually incorrect.

  6. Love “giggling”, Martin, at at the oil industry justification for their actions, however believe that to say we’ve got loads of wells already, doesn’t justify the arguement for more. See my post above re climate change, court rulings etc.

  7. Don’t get me started on plastics industry and the trap of planned obsolescence it builds in. I for one would love to be free of this enslavement we are caught up in, however once I don’t have to campaign then won’t need this keyboard

  8. There are substitutes for plastics , natural remedies for than big pharma products if only you bother to look , hundreds of wells in areas where woodland is destroyed is not the answer, neither is selling anything produced on the open market to the highest bidder , the energy security angle is hogwash , already the French are buying into UK oil companies and it wont be long before these small companies get taken over IF there is commercial oil . All the promises they make will be out of the window while we breathe the toxic fumes .

    • John
      True, French companies have bought and are buying into the U.K. They may rue the day they bought coal fired plant, but EDF soldiers on with gas fired plant, keeping old nuclear going, building new, storing gas and building wind farms.

      Perenco is into UK offshore gas, gas which is considered secure. And so on, including offshore oil.

      I guess that producing it in the U.K. keeps it secure, no matter who owns it? But do these French companies flout rules and throw promises out of the window? Maybe, but has anyone any examples?

    • Plastic substitutes are still very expensive and cannot be manufactured in any where near the quantities required. As for natural remedies, the Chinese believe in them, which is why the population of animals such as Elephants, Rhinos, Bears, Tigers, Sharks and Manta Rays are being decimated – do you really want the World to go down that route?

  9. More misinformation. World oil use is INCREASING so I would suggest if your concern is about the use of oil perhaps a relocation to Saudi would be more appropriate? If your concern is about globalisation then takeovers happen every day of the week. Let’s all switch off our electricity supply because that is probably already French, with more interconnectors and Hinkley expansion planned. But for us poor old pensioners better remember that 75% of the income from the Footsie Companies comes from OUTSIDE of the UK, so globalisation is feeding many a UK pensioner’s income.
    Meanwhile a second runway will be built at Gatwick in the next few years. Thousands of ships will come in and out of Fawley every year, and wells already in the middle of woods will continue to pump away in the English countryside just because they are so unobtrusive people don’t know they are there, until a few stumble across them and try to fool the easily fooled that they are the devil’s portal, dreaming up “safety” issues.

    (Fawley-refinery and chemicals plant- is a good neighbour to me. It helps to clean the Solent daily as the water it returns after using it for cooling is cleaner than when it was taken out. Good neighbour to the salmon too. I simply would like more of the oil utilised to be UK sourced. I have yet seen any anti manage to justify how this would not be an environmental benefit without trying to argue that oil use has to be stopped-which it will not be for decades to come ie. the lifetime of any UK on shore oil wells.)

  10. Martin , do you dispute the number of wells needed to sustain flow? Even the industry say it but then deny they said it , the lifetime of a well may be as little as 12 months and flow will decrease by around 60% over that period. Do we really want to chop down trees that are becoming more and more scarce , they provide the oxygen we breathe. Why would anyone trust a CEO of an oil company who pays himself £607k a year and cant tell the truth?

    [Link corrected at poster’s request]

    • John – he was talking about drilling Wells on a pad, which is done more efficiently if you drill them back to back, rather than drill one, demob everything and then remob it later to drill another Well.

      The Horse Hill site has already been built, so no trees need to be chopped down (were any in the first place?).

      If any are chopped down for a long term location, they are always replaced by screening planting to help the site blend into the Countryside. This has been done on many well pads in the UK – as evidenced by the fact that so few people here are aware that long term oil production has been going on in many fields in the Weald & Wessex basins for several decades.

      The lifetime of a Well can vary enormously, but it is very rare for it to be as short as 1 year. All Wells will go through a normal production decline curve, though 60% in the first year is very unusual and likely only to be valid for ‘tight’ oil & gas plays – which the Weald is not.

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