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Guest post by The Weald Action Group: Demystifying acidisation

180211 BB BBAG

Broadford Bridge oil exploration site near Billingshurst in West Sussex where Kimmeridge Oil and Gas has been using acidisation. Photo: Weald Oil Watch

As companies across the Weald in southern England begin using acidisation as part of Kimmeridge oil exploration, a campaign group has published a new leaflet about the technique.

In this Guest Post, The Weald Action Group, an alliance of community organisations across the region, explains why it produced the leaflet.

180226 Fracking under the radar WAG

Extract from Weald Action Group leaflet

Fracking under the radar? is a new leaflet about acidising from The Weald Action Group (WAG).  Fracking under the radar? (pdf)

WAG is a strategic umbrella group supporting the many community groups across the South East who oppose the growing presence of the oil and gas industry in the region. They all share concerns about the techniques this industry proposes to use in as yet untapped, unyielding sections of the geology under our feet.

The leaflet explains the oil or gas extraction method known as ‘acidisation’ or ‘acidising’, which, like fracking, is a ‘stimulation technique’ designed to release oil or gas tightly trapped inside the pores of rocks.

While fracking is used to crack open shale, acidising is used to dissolve passageways through limestone or sandstone. Acidising uses far higher concentrations of chemicals than fracking, and brings similar risks for local people, animals and the environment.

The F word is politically toxic

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Extract from Fracking under the radar? leaflet by Weald Action Group

The F word (fracking) has become politically toxic, and in the South East the oil and gas industry fell upon a ruse that enabled them to avoid the F word – in the early stages of their work, at least.

In the deep shales of the North of England, it is all too clear that fracking is the objective, and there the oil and gas industry and their supporters have had to bite the bullet, spill the beans, and call a frack a frack!

But in the South East the geology of the Weald Basin offered the industry a cunning ploy. Within the oil-bearing shale of the Weald Basin are thin layers of oily limestone-rich clay.

The industry realised that they could drill into these ‘limestone’ layers, claiming that acidising these snippets would give them a lucrative flow of oil. Fracking? What us? Nohohohoho!

Local groups do not believe them. They believe that the industry’s ultimate aim, having drilled and tested the ‘limestone’, is to frack the thick expanse of shale.

Fracking under the radar is a short leaflet, intended mainly for local people and councillors. It explains in simple terms how acidising works at different strengths and pressures, and why this kind of oil exploration, in shale or the ‘limestone’ within it, will give rise to a very large number of wells across the South East.

In the coming months, WAG will help provide more information and materials for awareness-raising, so that local campaigning groups and communities can ensure that other residents in the South East are not hoodwinked by the oil and gas industry, especially on the subjects of acidising and fracking.

In the meantime, please feel free to download and print the new leaflet here. Fracking under the radar? (pdf)


The Environment Agency has produced its own Frequently Asked Questions document on acidising here: Environment Agency FAQ

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7 replies »

  1. Seems they have confused themselves! I think I shall stick to the EA who seem to have a bit more knowledge, and are trying to clarify rather than conflate.
    Meanwhile, I shall still happily drink the water when in the South East-not because I believe it is yet to become contaminated from acid treatment in oil wells, but because it hasn’t become contaminated from acid treatment in water wells.
    New year, but same old scaremongering.

    • More explainations from the least expert people possible. The ‘limestone’ (make the international hand sign for quotation marks) is just that, its Limestone, a carbonate rock, unlike the shale, which is a silicate rock. The limestones have natural fractures which are often infilled with carbonates leached from the surrounding rock over millions of years by the fluids in the rock. So they use acid to open those natural fractures up. Its very simple, like descaling the kettle. And the acid is only slightly stronger than household vinegar.

      This luddite scaremongering is astonishing but, lets be honest, it dully and depressingly predictable.

  2. It’s like something out of 1984. The EA produce a detailed Q&A on the subject and then within a matter of days we see the anti truth being produced.

    What next? Bonfires burning the EA version?

    Someone obviously thought this up. Perhaps someone who infiltrated and was attempting to undermine the cause? Job done.

  3. You assume a lot Sherwulfe-and you know the danger of that. I certainly embrace new technology, where it is cost effective and appropriate, but it does not eliminate the need for gas and oil and will not do so for many years to come-if it ever does.

    Meanwhile, I recognise that the UK will be using gas and oil for at least the next 30 years. Others, who try and “impose” alternative energy “solutions” just expose the weakness of their arguments. If they were as all embracing they would not need imposing.

    • Martin, no one has said that oil and gas will be eliminated completely, but it needs to be drastically cut; faster than we are doing due to sponsored governance dragging their heels.

      The argument has always been about the amount of oil and gas we use and its effect on the climate cycle.

      New technology will always replace old.

      No one is imposing alternative solutions, the planet dictates it, and to date, so will the markets.

      ‘If they were as all embracing they would not need imposing’.- this statement is best served to INEOS and fracking.

  4. I am amazed you felt it important to try this strategy. Water companies are known for using exactly the same acidisation techniques when drilling boreholes. A review of your Year 9 chemistry will tell you that the products of reacting dilute hydrochloric acid and limestone are harmless. I think you basically want to say ‘no drilling in our back yard’ – but you know that sounds so Nimbyish (and impossible to defend), so you try to use science to support your position. [Edited by moderator]

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