Council leader says Surrey earthquake link to oil operations cannot be “completely ruled out”

180718 earthquake chart Stephen Hicks

Earthquake on 18 July 2018. Source: Dr Stephen Hicks

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.

Vivienne Michael MVDC

Vivienne Michael

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”.

She said:

“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”.

180712 installing seismic monitors

Monitoring station installed in Surrey, 12 July 2018. Photo: Dr Stephen Hicks

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.”

92 replies »

  1. ‘The ball is firmly in the Oil and gas Authority’s Court ‘ Oh ? What grounds are there for that statement. There is no proof whatsoever that it is anything to do with the Oil and Gas Authority, or the oil industry/.. I point out to in other contexts there was absolutely no proof that Caudrilla caused any Earth tremors … It was thought that they did, but it was thought that is not proof. The UK suffers roughly 300 Earth tremors per year, every four years – or so, there is a slightly larger one. Under the circumstances it would be very hard indeed to pin any of them on a drilling operation.. Although, of course like the statement about the ball being firmly in the Oil and Gas Authority’s Court there are some people who convert an opinion into fact in their own minds.A human failing perhaps, but the press should not pick up these philosophies and reprint them as if it were a scientific fact

  2. Oil and gas activities in Surrey no longer blamed by Mole Valley Council for local seismic activity; cause clearly lies with global seismicity and tectonic activity. Concerns shift to possible imminent plate interaction and formation of alpine like mountains in Surrey in near future. Next meeting will discuss possible winter sports opportunities including financing cable cars and ski lifts. Precept to be proposed accordingly…..

    • I think they forget to mention that the Colchester earthquake of 1894, or thereabouts, was attributed to somebody digging up potatoes in his garden. Until it was finally pinpointed to soldiers of the garrison marching in step, and issued them with boots with rubber soles ! As for Leith Hill comments . When one realises that Leith Hill people tried to stop the original explanation but lost out, then they have merely latched onto earth tremors as an alternative way of trying to stop the progress of the well

    • Some ruffled feathers need preening apparently?

      Never mind, it’s all just a wind up isn’t it Paul?

      Or is it 100% true?

      Difficult to tell unless we see all these crows are circling around the corpse of truth?

      The point is Paul, that major changes in the earths crust like this present situation are exacerbated by drilling activity in highly volatile zones such as the calderas in USA and elsewhere as was mentioned by dutchsimse and shown here. (same link btw)

      It’s no different here, we mess with the geology at times like this at our own risk, and it will be the same in Surrey where the present swarm is heading and also in the north of England which you dont mention where there are mining legacies and recorded faults have all ready been mentioned.

      The message is simple, don’t mess with geology when the entire crust is shifting.

      • A nine inch pipe in the ground ha ha ha . Any idea of the forces involved in an earthquake ? But lets assume for a second that it was caused by a nine inch pipe in the ground and it released a stress point. In the event it probably averted a major earthquake later on !

        • But it doesn’t does it? High pressure injection, or reinjection simply expands and contracts rapidly into the relatively stable target area and produces an unstable lubricated pressure point or a slip zone which passes on the stress to the next potential pressure points and so on along the fault line or stress line.
          Like I said before its not a fixed stable system it’s a series of highly complex slip zones and pressure points transferring stress by whatever means.
          The effects maybe minimal or maximal it’s impossible to say which or predict.

          • And, in doing so relieves the stress point. I am afraid that your arguments are based upon philosophy A bit like saying to land on the moon increases the weight of the moon and leads to a lower orbit, too many ifs and buts and lack of facts in your discourse. You come back with scientific evidence that drilling at HH is going to cause an earthquake. Meantime, we can all come up with philosophises and we often do, but luckily for the world, in many cases, philosophy is not fact it is just and idea of what could happen if and of course it is the ‘if’ that has to be proved. So pigs might fly ‘if’.. The if being is if they had wings, so the basis of the philosophy is groundless about pigs flying !.

            • Dear me Vernon, that little trash can of weak and unsubstantiated nonsense did you no favours? The only “philiosophy” is your ignorance of stress flow analysis in complex structures. [Edited by moderator]

      • Phil C
        No worries, we de stressed lots of the coalfields by removing hundreds of SQ miles coal.
        Nothing de stresses a fault more than dropping it 6 feet or so.

          • Phil C
            Subsidence is something else.
            However, if seismic activity is moving to the UK from Europe, the Kent coalfield will be affected first.
            So far, nothing to report there.

            • You cannot remove the deep stresses they are de facto, if you relieve them early then you probably prevent a much more dramatic natural release. Let us give you the facts The UK is moving North East, eventually it will end up North of Moscow and near the North Pole and. too cold for a populace. When the UK finally comes up against the Pacific Plate then the UK will be sub-ducted. The most dangerous thing to mankind is not climate, it is nuclear weapons as more and more hot-headed, some believing that their God will reward them if they die in his name, countries.

  3. And, of course, Vernon, there hasn’t been any drilling at HH for a long time! I think the idea is when they have tested what they drilled a long time ago, they will drill some more. On top of which, the only activity at HH when the cluster started was the antis breaking into the site.

    Ahh, I have found the missing link! A ban on the antis has to be the answer. Or, “alternatively”, a bit of vegetable oil between the stress points and everything will slide into place. Seems fair, take out the red diesel and replace with vegetable oil. You might find that “science” a bit of a oddity, but I can assure you it is a well (oops) trodden path for some. A slippery path, sliding down a slope in the middle of a fog, but still a path. Crazy pathing.

    • Yes.I agree with you. So far the anti’s have done the most damage, and they continue to do damage. Moreover, they trespass on other people’s land slow walk in from to lorries. I guess they are not a good example of the brave new world they would have us believe they are making. Wonder what they would say if somebody camped on their front lawn, and defected in their hedge . Lit camp fires and generally broke the law …Sometimes these yak burners have to look at what they are doing and think. Is this what I really want society to look like. Greatest thing I read, I think it was in the Telegraph a long time ago. Writer traced some of the CND law breakers and found that most of them left their house at between 7 and 8 am each morning, and came home at c.5 pm. They had two kids, a dog, and a car, and many had a mortgage….In other words they grew up !

      • The only damage has been from this poisonous industry invading our countryside in the first place, rule number one of physics Vernon, always take the effects of complex stress analysis back to first principles.

        Remove the cause and you remove the effects.

        Without this invasion of our country there would be no need for protest.

        Remove the cause.

  4. Phil you have no proofs of anything yet you come on here quoting hearsay as if it were proof. Anyone can spout theories. Prove that drilling for oil ( and that has been going on for 100 years) and Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are not riven by earth quakes. Yet thousands of wells have been drilled there. The North Sea is not an earthquake zone either. The South North Sea has been drilled for both gas and oil, and no, no earthquakes there . Your arguments seem to be based upon, in your case, snowflake dogma. You have no facts at your disposal, therefore, no argument just a dogmatic repetition of theories. [Edited by moderator]

    • “Anyone can spout theories.” Congratulations in subscribing to your own unproven theory.

      This poisonous industry invaded this country in complicity with our own compromised government and then proceeded to squat in the midst of our countryside and villages and seem to have a predeliction for beauty spots like Leith Hil.l

      By then people began to understand just how dangerous the entire onshore industry process is by evidence from all over the world.

      If that weren’t enough they then proceeded to lay down the law and produce the most outrageously poorly prepared and bullying planning applications which were proved to be incompetent and inadequate by planning committees and public enquiries.

      The industry proceeded to bully and intimidate planning committees by threats of suing for the outrageous claim of “loss of profits” which is frankly insane.

      Any refusal of planning permission was then overturned and swept aside by central government and the operators took out injunctions which overturned democratic rights of protest and turned our own police against us.

      It is your industries snowflake dogma which cannot stand the light of truth and reason and that is pure snowflakeism and you know it.

      i say again again the entire cause of this debacle is the invasion of this filthy industry into our country and the solution to that is rule number one of physics Vernon,

      Always take the effects of complex stress analysis back to first principles.

      Remove the cause and you remove the effects.

      Without this invasion of our country there would be no need for protest.

      Dont be such a snowflake like your industry, look at the facts and remove the cause of the problem in the first place.

      Remove the cause . remove this dangerous poisonous polluting industry from our shores.

      You have no facts at your disposal, therefore, no argument just a dogmatic repetition of theories

      Have a good bank holiday Monday.

      • Sorry Phil, you clearly cannot fully understand the English language. We cannot rule out, does not mean that it is a fact. Then we have to look at the qualification of the person making they statement, are they in any position to rule in or out ? Is it just a non qualified opinion, could it be a mischievous opinion ? Is there any other proof of what they are saying is correct. But, what you seem to have difficulty with is what are the arguments against. In this case there is ample proof in the United Kingdom that drilling does not cause earthquakes. We have drilled probably thousands of wells on land and in the North Sea. Facts are bore holes thousands/earthquakes nil. Of course if you have some kind of proof that refutes the evidence, then why not publish your dissertation, there might even be a Knighthood for you in it. [Edited by moderator]

          • Dont Knighthoods get a tax free free pass to Monaco?

            I wouldn’t know what to do with one old bean, my baronial hall mantelpiece is so stuffed full of English and Engineering degrees and ancestral family paintings and stuffed bullies head trophies and all? Space for a few more stuffed heads by the way?

            Just no room i’m afraid?

            However, if SHJ should ever want to offload his knights suit of armour, i could do with a flat cap fat cat frack hat stand?

            • Often, of course, it is not always green issues which drive the antis but quite often it is envy. They are going to make money out of this syndrome. We have had the comments about government fat cats, now free tax passes to Monaco. It is a shame when so many people seem to have it in for you, must be frightening to live like that

            • Just reading ‘Drilling Contractor’. 79,000 wells were drilled in the year 2013. They estimate that they will have to drill 670,000 by the year 2020 but during that time too, (personally I would have thought less, unless they are including shale) but there you have it, I am not a contractor. Meantime, of course, several hundred thousand wells will have become depleted and they will be returned to Greenfield sites. And, all those executives with fistfuls of profits from not paying taxes, as your report it, will all head for Monaco, if there is room for them. If not they are welcome in Essex where I live, rich people spend lots of money and lots of money splashed around employs people. I think I will put up a few sign posts on the entry roads to Essex.’ Essex welcomes rich people’. So sorry Phil I cannot subscribe to your views =. My view is that if they are rich then they will want to buy expensive things and live in big houses that will employ servants. estate managers, and gardeners and even game keepers if the estate is large enough. They will buy new cars nearly every year, and take taxis to airports. They will build things such as roadways on their estates. My local bank will be much less likely to close down if Lord Moneybags has got £20,000,000 deposited there. He may take it out and put it with another bank which has no plans to close its branch down. We don’t have to fear the rich or be envious of them Phil, they have got money and they want to spend it, the trick is how to profit from that !

            • Dear me vernon you have got it bad havent you, that was a very green eyed comment? Apparently you dont read English either?

              The more you dig, the deeper gets the hole to lie in?

              There is a very interesting psychological condition known as transference, where a person will always accuse another person of their own worst fears and desires?

              Perhaps such a condition is more likely to afflict those who are far too quick to accuse others of thoughts that only they possess? Frankly i dont subscribe to such desires as i clearly said, that was just your little illusion and attempted smear. But that is what we have come to expect now isnt it?

              This gets more revealing every day? We begin to see where all this comes from?

              Sadder and sadder?

  5. The oil and gas industry lies about the impact its operations have. re-injection has been clearly linked to a huge increase in swarms of earthquakes in the US, and they say it is impossible here, with our geology that is much more fractures and easy to disturb? And this is before large scale operations have started across the country. Hold on, we are in for a rough ride, unless politicians step in and stop the rot and stop all onshore operations including fracking that entails all those other “impossible” impacts of health deterioration from air pollution, noise pollution, huge numbers of large HGV movements on tiny rural roads, and so on.

    • Ian Conan

      I am not sure you are correct in saying that the O&G industry lies about its operations regarding re-injection.

      There has been a lot of re-injection in the N.Sea since the mid 1970s both in the Northern and Southern Sector of the N.Sea. In addition the re injection rates for Wytch Farm are there for all to see on the web, as can the number of earthquakes in that area over the time re injection has taken place ( not many if any ). Some of that re injection is to aid production, or to get rid of produced water or drill cuttings.

      In America, onshore, it is a bit different. Large quantities of waste water have been re injected in wells which can be many miles from the site it has been produced from and into receptor strata that is not in any way related to the strata it has come from. You can re inject water from offshore wells onshore if you like!

      It is also worth noting that the majority of concerns in the US are due to the re injection of frack returns…not something hapenning here yet in the UK for the Fylde, nor, as there is no p,annex HOHV fracking planned …in the Weald. The issue if reinjecting waste water and or produced water into a depleted reservoir or to aid production and or to dispose of waste produced water is not something that has been much of a concern ( try googling earthquake swarms and re injection but without any link to fracking ).

      Plus, there is an acceptance in O&G literature that this high volume re injection has been the cause of swarms of earthquakes

      Meanwhile in the UK

      In the Weald, two O&G companies say that their activities are unlikely to be connected to the recent tremors ( or impossible if you are Mr Vonk ), but I do not see anywhere in their literature that they reject the causation of earthquake swarms in the US or that they disagree with the BGS narrative on the subject.

      What we have is a view that small time oil extraction and small amounts of re injection have caused ( or contributed to ) small shallow tremors in the Weald, and the investigation continues.

      • Clearly linked ? How clear proof ???? or is it conjecture. Health deterioration from pollution where is your proof. HGVs as you will note there are an awful lot of those about. However, to bring a super tanker from the Gulf to Great Britain, they can burn up to 300 tons (thats right tons) of fuel per day and of course they have to go back again to get more oil and there are several of them employed on the journey, It would take an awful of of HGVs to equal that wouldn’t it. Then, of course, ever hear of pipes ?

  6. What we have hewes62 are a few individuals who will grasp at any stick to try and beat the oil and gas industry.

    The more clued up antis seem to be ignoring them, recognising that such desperate stuff exposes their inability to keep control of sensible discussion about the topic. Almost as if they wished to sacrifice public opinion just to keep a few excited, who would be excited anyway.

    The almost factual narrative seems to have run out to be replaced by nonsense theories.

  7. Seems since they have started to extract the oil at HH there have been no more tremors!

    So, “we can not rule out” it was the earth telling us the pressure needed to be released and the “precautionary principle” of extracting more rapidly needs to be applied, requiring an injunction, ie. a “moratorium” on protests, to allow that to happen.

    Oh, I do like this pseudo science. So much more “exciting” than the real stuff.

    [Edited by moderator]

    Better have a very large cup of coffee also as I am “told” after we “crash out” there will be a shortage of coffee and tea. Must be those vast coffee and tea plantations within the EU will be out of reach.

    All this “re-education” required at my advanced age.

    • Very true too, for their own benefit most nations trade with each other. Mostly the trading is done by companies with very little input from the governments. I suspect that this may continue after we have left the EU. Downside though is that the EU directive D1301/10 on climate change no longer applies to the UK and we had to suffer a long very hot summer as a result

  8. We still have Phil C trying to prove that we are all suffering earth quakes because of drilling for oil. I understand that you cannot keep your feet in Saudi Arabia because the earth is shaking all of the time. The UK suffers some 300 earthquakes per year, now and again there is a slightly larger one which could dislodge the odd rusted retaining nail slate to fall off of a roof. Mostly they are so small that they are about the same as a lorry passing your house. Meantime, there is real danger such as the rise in knifings, the nuclear threat, over population. There is also a risk in presenting unproven theories as if they were facts/ That is alarmist, and irresponsible

    • Oh dear, here we go again? Vernon seems to have lost the thread altogether? if you are going to say anything intelligible Vernon then try to repeat what i said, not what you would like to think i said. Show me where is the evidence i helpfully provided that shows that drilling causes earthquakes? That is your words not mine.

      What the evidence and 3d model showed was evidence that where earthquake swarms occur and one example of that is now happening worldwide, that drilling in areas such as the Yellowstone caldera will cause slip planes and transfer stress along fault lines and stress zones and that may or may not, depending upon whether such plates absorb or transmit energy, to other stress points. do try to keep up? I know it goes against official dogma but science and physics are a learning process and not fixed in time and space.

      But that doesnt fit the accusatory miss representation narrative does it?

      Never mind, nice try but no cigar, go look at the earthquake recorded facts and maybe that will correct such poorly represented accounts?

      Poor anti antis, it must be terrible to be in a world where everything seems contrary to the force fed dogma and brainwashing?

      • ‘that drilling in areas such as the Yellowstone caldera will cause slip planes and transfer stress along fault lines and stress zones and that may or may not, depending upon whether such plates absorb or transmit energy, to other stress points.’ This doesn’t make sense in English never mind in the context of Geological Science.

          • I am educated to M.Sc level in Geology and have had a 40 year career as a professional geologist – yourself?

            • I am really not sure you deserve an answer David S after that nasty little crack?

              But hey! i’m in a good mood, so i guess if you want a list?

              BEng Civils
              Msci Geophys undergrad: continued abroad
              Post Grad Fluid Mechanics and Dynamics: abroad
              BAHons English Language and Literature (just for fun interrupted at present)
              Human Anatomy and Physiology (in progress)
              Sound and Audio engineering just for fun and pleasure
              A 1st in swimming and a mural in the school hall 1969

              Other than that its been a bit quiet? Except for the guitar that is?

              Oh yes, i forgot the most important one: Human Being what i am: Supergrandad

    • Vernon Young

      Best to check out Dutchsinse, try Dutchsinse scam.

      I do not think that one U.Tube web site which relies of shock news to generate hits ( income ) and keep people excited can be called ‘ the facts’. Others may disagree ( primarily those who lean towards conspiracy theory I guess ).

      • Dear me, we are getting desperate aren’t we? Ahh the usual play the man not the ball strategy emerges hewes62, sorry you were left with that unenviable task hewes?
        But if desperation and author character attack of the author is all you are left with? Then perhaps try to prove it with contradictory data and 3d examples then?
        I shall await your extensive 3d data analysis with interest.

        [Typo corrected at poster’s request]

  9. Meanwhile, the oil continues to be pumped, taken away for processing and turned into aviation fuel to allow the public to fly back into Gatwick at the end of the summer hols. Hope a little is left to make into red diesel to make sure my breakfast cereal is produced.

    And, of course, the taxation gathered in can then be redistributed to help the less well off and contribute to public services. With a little bit to fund dividends to provide pensioners with a boost to their pension incomes.

    Not as exciting, but reality often isn’t.

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