Mole Valley District Council has called for local oil and gas operations to stop if they are implicated in the recent cluster of earthquakes in Surrey.
The area around Dorking served by the council has experienced 14 earthquakes since April 1 2018, after 50 years without any tremors.
Earlier this month a group of geologists called for a moratorium on oil and gas operations at nearby sites at Brockham and Horse Hill.
In a statement, Vivienne Michael, leader of Mole Valley District Council, said the authority shared residents’ concerns and said “a link cannot be completely ruled out”.
“We have therefore been in touch with Surrey County Council (SCC), which is the mineral planning authority in this case, to ensure that they are aware of the level of concern and to urge them to take the necessary and appropriate action.”
The earthquake issue was discussed on 8 August 2018 when county councillors approved a part-retrospective planning application by Angus Energy for a disputed oil well at Brockham.
Mrs Michael said:
“Under National Planning Practice Guidance, the mitigation of seismic risk is one of the hydrocarbon issues that mineral planning authorities can leave to other regulatory regimes and we understand that SCC has been liaising with the Environment Agency, British Geological Survey, Health and Safety Executive and the Oil and Gas Authority as the main regulatory bodies involved.”
The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) told DrillOrDrop it was “difficult to see how oil and gas activities in the area could be linked to these seismic events”.
Since the start of the earthquakes, the British Geological Survey (BGS) has installed five seismic monitoring stations in the area. But it is not yet able to say if there is a connection and there is also no timescale for its work.
Mrs Michael said:
“We are calling on the BGS and the OGA to clarify this and to take any further action necessary to ensure that, if drilling, re-injection and flow testing are implicated, these activities are curtailed or stopped completely and our residents’ concerns addressed.”
The statement was welcomed by local people and residents’ groups.
Brockham resident, Ted Kral said:
“The ball is now most firmly in the Oil and Gas Authority’s court.
I cannot understand how this Authority, having granted a temporary nationwide moratorium in 2011, following a series of significantly smaller earthquakes associated with the Preese Hall fracking site in Lancashire, has not immediately put in place a similar moratorium on oil drilling, re-injection and flow testing until more is known on possible causal links between the hydrocarbon activities and the Surrey earthquakes. This is especially after four eminent academic geologists had called for such a moratorium.
“We very much appreciate the council getting involved and fully support their call for further investigation and clear timescales.
Ada Zaffina, of Brockham Oil Watch, said:
“MVDC’s position is representative of the concerns of the local people, and quite different from the approach taken by Surrey County Council’s planning authority during the recent meeting where permission was granted for controversial works at Brockham. SCC said that seismic risk was not a planning consideration and that it was outside of the jurisdiction of the local planning authority.
“We have now also asked for the available operational data for Brockham to be verified, and for detailed data held by the regulators and the operator to be released for independent analysis.”
James Knapp, of the Weald Action Group, said:
“The statement from MVDC reflects the concerns of many Surrey residents, and is very welcome. Local group A Voice For Leith Hill has seen unprecedented demand for its earthquake edition newsletter which went to a sixth reprint, showing how widespread public concern is.
“The call for a moratorium by four eminent hydrocarbon geologists and seismologists was based on the coincidence of timing, depth and location of the earthquakes with activities at Brockham and Horse Hill. This merits investigation, but the OGA is conflicted as it’s primary function is to promote the oil and gas industry.
“We are now at an an impasse. The BGS are doing their job, gathering and publishing data for others to analyse just as they did after the 2011 Preese Hall earthquakes, but no independent academic study can be made until Angus and UKOG release all borehole base pressure data and detailed logs of raw injection data including all depth, timing, quantity, pressure and fluid type.”