Research

Two more Surrey earthquakes – second oil company says it’s not to blame

180718 earthquake chart Stephen Hicks

One of two small earthquakes in Surrey today. Source: Dr Stephen Hicks

The British Geological Survey confirmed there were two more small earthquakes in Surrey today – both in the same place as the previous cluster.

This brings to 10 the number in the county since April 2018. Before then, earthquakes had not been recorded in Surrey for 50 years.

Today’s first earthquake was just before 5am British Summer Time and had a magnitude of 1.7, later raised to 2.0. The second was at 2.33pm BST, and measured 2.7. Both were felt by residents in the Newdigate and Charlwood areas of Surrey. There were also two aftershocks.

The cluster of earthquakes has prompted calls by some local people for an investigation into any links with the local oil and gas industry. A public meeting has been planned for 25 July 2018 in Brockham, where Angus Energy operates an oil production site.

Last week, the British Geological Survey installed two seismic monitors to track the earthquakes (DrillOrDrop report). One is at Russ Hill, directly above the current best estimate for the epicentres. The second is in the Norwood Hill/Horley area, near another oil exploration site at Horse Hill.

180718 BGS earthquake data

2sLocation of recent earthquakes in Surrey. Map: BGS

“Scientifically impossible”

The main investor at that site, UK Oil and Gas, has previously refuted any connection between Horse Hill and the earthquakes. (Links here and here)

Yesterday, the managing director of Angus Energy, Paul Vonk, rejected any link with the Brockham oil site.

Mr Vonk, speaking in an online interview with Zak Mir, said:

“It is scientifically and physically impossible for us to have caused these tremors.

“Of course, tremors in an area of southern England where they haven’t been in ages, you know, is news.”

Mr Vonk said:

“Basically, the way the faulting structure works, it works from east to west. We, at the reservoir at Brockham, are working at a third of the pressure that you can actually activate faults. So we can’t do it with our current reservoir.

“But even hypothetically, if we could do it, the stresses would go east-west. The epicentre of the tremors was 10.5km south of us.”

He added:

“The BGS is doing some extra work and in time it will be proven by the authorities that it isn’t us.”

“Fascinatingly shallow”

180718 tweet Stephen Hicks

Southampton University seismologist Dr Stephen Hicks, who helped to install the new seismic monitors, said today on Twitter:

“Location, depth & magnitude confirmed – new stations allow for much better estimates, especially for depth. Magnitude 1.7 and at about 1km depth, with an epicentre location close to the previous estimates for the earlier quakes in the sequence.”

He added:

“[About] 1km depth is fascinatingly shallow if you compare to most UK earthquakes which have depths >5km in the crust. To me 1km depth suggests that today’s event occurred in the softer sedimentary strata, rather than in the underlying crystalline “basement” rock.”

18 replies »

  1. I have made my views clear many times LH. But, again:

    In reference to the Weald exploration, this is no different to numerous other small sites across the South of England, including the largest on shore oil field in Europe, at Wytch Farm. Yes, the companies have to find acceptable and cost effective ways to extract the oil, but that’s no different to most other situations around the world.

    I live in the South of England, currently within a short distance of Fawley refinery. (Previously lived in Surrey.) Fawley refinery takes the oil from Wytch Farm, yesterday a puddle from HH, and huge tankers from all over the world. I know this as I talk regularly with one of the pilots who sees them in and out of the Solent. The refinery are good neighbours taking water from the Solent for cooling and returning cleaner water, and they support many high paid jobs. Aviation fuel is piped from Fawley to our ever expanding airports, including Gatwick I believe. There certainly is no reduction in demand for such fuels in the UK although some would wish that was the case. On-line shopping! Great for van sales but how many people now receive half a dozen deliveries per week rather than one visit to the shops?

    I certainly don’t agree with your conclusions. Take a visit to Wytch Farm, or other UK sites. The biggest difficulty would be for you to find them, once they are constructed. No different in Lincolnshire where I managed a company and my staff were neighbours to some sites, and totally unaware of the fact they were there.

    I would prefer that demand is met more from UK production (if possible), for energy security reasons, for maritime safety reasons, for control of emission reasons and also for taxation reasons. Call me old fashioned, but I would rather UK industry pay more tax allowing myself and my friends and family to pay less in support of those who need support, and in support of public services. My estimate, and not that different to others who are a whole lot more expert than me, is that our reliance on oil and gas will continue for at least another 30 years. Obviously, alternatives will increase but so will our demand for energy. Many current “trends” are still not that practical. I am on my second Hybrid, but my next change will be away from Hybrids. There are serious limitations to the existing Hybrids that make them impractical for all but limited usage. Yes, they will get better but then can you tell me how secure the supplies of lithium and cobalt are? Not very, is my view. Lagoons? Apart from the guy pushing it not even sure it would work, Swansea would be expecting Cornwall to blow up half of the Lizard to supply the granite (which was refused anyway) and then a huge premium would be added to bills to fund it. Please discuss that one with Port Talbot. Solar panels? My friends and neighbours who have invested are, on the whole, extremely disappointed. Not exclusively, but largely. Solar farm a mile away from me. Seems to be working okay, but a 99 year lease turning farm land into a solar farm and we will probably now freight courgettes from Spain for 99 years instead of growing them.

    Yes, air sourced heat pumps are great. I have one. Makes the conservatory a usable room all year round, but the rest of the property still relies upon gas heating, one son who is a builder has only built houses with gas heating for at least the last 15 years, and the other son who was an estate agent found nearly all the properties on his books had gas central heating, or if more rural, then oil. He is now an ambulance driver, and his ambulance is diesel.

    To me, the irony of this debate around fossil v alternative has a huge elephant in the room. Alternative energy sources will be penalised if UKs core energy policy is inefficient-which it is. Investment might be more inclined to be diverted into alternatives if core energy prices are low. That is simple economics. If core energy prices are high then investment into even higher alternatives will be limited.

    Apologies for all of that-but you did ask!

  2. Thank you for your considered response.
    I may not necessarily agree with your conclusions or assessment of current and future energy provisions, or indeed the proposals for the Weald, but it is refreshing to hear a different viewpoint without it being wrapped in polarised rhetoric.

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