TV presenters join call on Government to block oil drilling off Bournemouth

Corallian appraisal well location

Campaigners have described plans to drill for oil on the seabed off Bournemouth as a “reckless gamble” and urged the government to block it.

The Business Secretary, Greg Clark, is considering proposals by Corallian Energy Ltd for an appraisal well, 6km from Studland and 8km from Bournemouth. The company wants to drill to a depth of 1,640m using a rig that would be 121m above sea level.

In a letter this week, TV presenters Chris Packham, Kate Humble and Miranda Krestovnikoff joined politicians, businesses, environmental groups and residents in urging Mr Clark to protect the coastline. Letter to Greg Clark (pdf)

They said:

“The consequences of a major oil spill at this location pose an existential threat to the local economy and natural environment”.

According to the letter, the Bournemouth and Poole area attracts 10 million visitors a year, who spend over £3/4 billion and support 12,000 jobs.

The drilling site, known as the Colter Prospect, is in Britain’s most important section of seabed for seahorses.

It is also in the Solent and Dorset Coast potential Special Protection Area. This is being considered for designation because of its internationally-important populations of common tern, Sandwich term and little tern.

Dorset has the UK’s largest producing onshore oil field at Wytch Farm and many of the wells run horizontally from the shore under the seabed. But Corallian said in its application there were no suitable onshore sites from which to drill. It said the rig would be used for up to 45 days, outside the main tourist season. After drilling, the well would be abandoned, the company said.

“Unnecessary and reckless gamble”

In their letter, the campaigners said ideally the Dorset coast would not support any risk from the oil and gas industry. But they said:

“offshore drilling this close to the coast, would be to take an unnecessary and reckless gamble.”

The letter said the decision to rule out drilling off the Florida coast last month acknowledged that the risks of offshore drilling in sensitive areas outweighed the benefits. It added:

“We would like to advocate a similar strategy to that introduced in Florida for Bournemouth and Poole Bay, from Swanage and Studland to the Isle of Wight.”

The letter urged Mr Clark to issue a statement so that “residents and visitors can be sure their coastal environment will be protected.”

“This will also help re-assure local business and future investors that Bournemouth, Poole, the Isle of Wight and Purbeck are safe to invest in and will never be under any threat from onshore drilling.”


Among the signatories of the letter are Dr Jane Goodall, Bournemouth Natural Science Society, Darwin Ecology, Birds of Poole Harbour, the Seahorse Trust, East Dorset Friends of The Earth and Bournemouth & Poole Greenpeace.

The letter writer, Stuart Lane, of Bournemouth, Poole Bay, Isle of Wight & Purbeck Stakeholders, said a blow-out, assessed by Corallian as low risk, would have “inescapably high” consequences.

“Permitting this application would set a precedent for future applications. Multiple drillings would multiply up the level of risk”.

  • Earlier this year, UK Oil and Gas Investments plc pulled out of its offshore licence near the Isle of Wight. It told investors one of the reasons was the “high environmental sensitivity” of the area (more details).

55 replies »

  1. Absolute twaddle PhilC. I have lived locally to Poole all my life-which is pretty long. [Edited by moderator]

    Perhaps the NUMBER of leaky diesel boats might have something to do with it? What sort of “engineer” were you? You post frequently about pollution yet the basics of numbers polluting contributing to volume seems to have escaped you. So, the “thousands of wells across Lancashire” will be no problem?

    Never mind, I shall learn my lesson and return to editing.

  2. Hewes62-if you check out Sunseeker Yachts you will get a good idea of what is going on in terms of Poole area regarding developments, over time. “Southampton Boat Show” provides another clue.

    This compares to over 70 years ago when my parents, in June 1944, decided to honeymoon in the New Forest (father’s birth place), before father was due to cross the channel shortly after initial D-Day landings. (They were “surprised” the coast was not accessible!) But the wedding was urgent-not for todays obvious reason-but then a war widows pension was an issue, and with 80% casualties expected, quite a sensible plan. After N.Africa and then Italy and being hospitalised twice, I suspect “pushing your luck” was in his mind. But, he returned to the area at the end of the war, and then there was me!

    Now, all along this piece of coast there are large numbers of marinas with weekend flats and moorings that the wealthy utilise for long weekends (many from the City). Yes, the sailing is an attraction, but motor yachts abound and the nature of Poole Harbour (big harbour, narrow entrance) produces a “cleansing” issue. Marchwood Power station is scheduled for redevelopment and this could add hugely to the potential problem, as it is planned to attract new high spec. industries and will require leisure facilities to support. The marine pollution from leisure craft is manageable, but requires a great deal more pro active behaviour or enforcement. (Perhaps another refinery? Fawley actually cleans the water in the Solent!)
    Whereas Poole would have been a first choice for me to visit for a day out, it would not be at the top of my list now, simply because it can become very busy and congested, on land and water.

    • Your father and mine may have been in the same division?
      I am always minded that the D Day landings were a last ditch one off attempt, thankfully successful, to oust the totalitarian invaders from Europe, as sooner or later they would have invaded England and had already developed technology that would have enabled them to attack the USA.

      The estimated casualties in the D Day landings were assessed to be as much as 70%!
      But thanks to spies, double agents and a massive amount of carefully salted and disseminated disinformation, the estimated losses and injuries, still not precise after 70 years, are around 12% and more including sea going, navy and air forces and the paratroopers..

      If you were ask almost any armed forces soldiers and civilians at the time, what they were fighting for, they would say freedom from tyranny, the pub and the right to live in peace in our own beautiful countryside?

      I am pretty sure none of them would have been fighting to destroy democracy and the right to protest, or the proliferation of primarily profit motivated industry to carve up our countryside into bite sized chunks?

      The anti antis in this fracking debacle would call that “fearmongering”) thousands of lives were saved and the attempts to “drive them back into the sea” failed mainly due to such “fearmongering” that the invasion would be the shortest distance at Calais.

      So the lesson is, that wars, which have been outlawed, but simply renamed conflicts or freedom fights are primarily fought with massive disinformation and fearmongering and outright lies.

      Looking at the onshore ohandgee propaganda and efforts to obscure and damage limit any attempt to open things up for discussion and instead make concerted attempts to crush and intimidate any attempt to do so, shows that such lessons are well established in such organisations.

      Hence we see these derogatory personalisation of issues to attempt to divert and obscure the original point.

      The lesson that the antis have learned is that the best way to fight such fearmongering and disinformation is to use the precise opposite. That is the equivalent of fighting for queen and country, well, country anyway, the corner pub and the right of self determination against the forces who threaten that.

      Truth is a rare commodity in such “Big proponents” and hence their Achilles heel is the absolute truth, that is the anti weapon of choice, and that is why the industry protagonists descend so heavily on any attempt to put the absolute truth forward.

      One of those descents into fearmongering is to accuse the antis of doing precisely what the industry protagonists do, which is “speculation and fabrication”.

      Truth will out, we have all ready seen the economic and national interest speculation and fabrication fall under the truth.

      There is more truth to emerge yet.

      [Text added at poster’s request]

  3. This offshore exploration well concern appears to have overstated by the “celebrities”. This is an exploration well only. Nothing more. I expect the results will be used to assess whether new horizontal wells would be worth drilling from onshore. There is a much greater risk already from the busy shipping lanes that ply through the English Channel.

    • It’s appraisal. Already been drilled. “The 98/11-3 well was drilled on the prospect in 1989 by Gas Council (Exploration) Ltd and encountered a 10.5 metres vertical oil column in the Sherwood Sandstone with an oilwater-contact at a depth of 1,739 metres sub-sea. Reservoir quality is very similar to that observed in Wytch Farm.”

      • Wow, what a flurry of oddness and indignation?

        Its always interesting to see what you guys react to in such a way? Tempers seem frayed?

        It speaks volumes? Do i seem to be touching some very sensitive nerves today? Or are you all in some sort of shale share shock shuffle?
        Where is all that self assurance and steely resolve and stiff upper lip?

        You know I did not personally tear down your share prices, they are falling of their own accord with a little help of course from your own screaming investors.

        Hopes of millions dashed on the rocky shale of simple economics.

        Honestly a few big set backs and it’s all tears before bedtime?

        Dear dear, how sad, never mind.

  4. Al, this is what Corallian’s website says “Offshore Licence P1918
    The licence contains the Colter oil discovery located 2 kilometres south of the Wytch Farm oilfield. Colter was originally drilled by offshore well 98/11-3 in 1986 which recovered oil on test from a 10.5 metres oil column within the Triassic Sherwood Sandstone, the main reservoir at Wytch Farm. Recently merged and reprocessed 3D seismic data has identified potential up-dip of the discovery well. The Company plans to drill an offshore well on Colter during 2018 using a Jack-Up rig. Should the well be commercially successful, development would be via extended-reach wells from onshore as per Wytch Farm.”

    The Gas Council made the initial oil discovery at Wytch Farm, but as it was not allowed to produce oil, (UK legislation) it had to pass the discovery over to BP.

    • Corallian are saying, almost word for word, what was said by Infrastrata in 2014. I wonder if they’ve done any technical work since taking on the block?

    • Dr Nick and Al

      While there has been drilling in the past, it was prior to Macondo ( exploratory well ) and the resulting increased interest in Oil Spill Plans (OPEP) and Near Shore oil spill response plans.

      I expect those opposed to the development to focus on the consequence of any modelled spill, rather than the risk, a point already raised in this DOD report. Probability will not get a look in.

      I also expect a fair amount of comment of Regulation ( or perceived lack of it ).

      We shall see no doubt.

  5. Celebrity and their environmental activism are a bit rich. Most of their wealth and fames are a result of energy consumption and therefore indirectly or directly from fossil fuel in the modern days.

    • Is Chris Packham a TV Celeb or a Naturist by profession? Does Mirand Krestovnikoff have a Zoology degree and write for Diver Magazine etc? I recon it would be a bit rich if they didn’t speak out on environmental matters when they earn their money doing tv programmes about nature and the natural environment.

      What a funny world you pro O&G guys live in, you seem to constantly be in a state of righteous indignation if anyone dares to talk about the potential issues caused by the industry.

      • Crembrule
        Yes, we should all guard against invective and hyperbole.

        The headlines did say that TV presenters joined politicians etc in opposing the drilling, but I guess we all know that does not mean all TV presenters or all politicians, as there may well be some in both camps who support O&G development.

    • “Celebrity and their environmental activism are a bit rich. ”

      BTW, Perhaps the point is, that such residents, celebrity or not, are precisely that?

      That seems to be a problem revealed by this furore from the anti antis? I am sure many of those would oppose similar ohandgee developments anywhere in the country?

      Be careful who you insult? The results may be total opposition for the entire industry?

      Perhaps this whole flurry of indignation stems from the fact that such residents, once sufficiently motivated, have a lot more influence with the media and hence the government, than the unfortunately named Corallian?

      [Typo corrected at poster’s request]

  6. I think you will find crembrule that the “indignation” is aimed at speculation and fabrication utilised by the antis. Maybe we see it as a service to those who are being fed such misinformation to correct the record? After all, once all the “news” becomes fake we have simply gone to comic books.

  7. I know how you like a bit of factual stuff crembrule-how about “National Trust faces vast bill over fracking”. This one seems to have slipped under the radar. (Ben Webster, Environmental Editor, Times 22/2/18.) After recent publicity regarding what some organisations have been spending public donations on, this will get interesting.

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