Residents report work underway to abandon Markwells Wood oil site in South Downs

Markwells Wood 6 Ann Stewart

UKOG’s Markwells Wood well site. Photo: Ann Stewart

A residents’ group in the South Downs is reporting that UK Oil & Gas is pulling out of its exploration site at Markwells Wood.

The group, Markwells Wood Watch, said local people had been informed that work to clear the site, near Rowlands Castle, would begin on Monday this week (19 November 2018).

DrillOrDrop understands that vehicles have been accessing the site and lighting has been installed.

Planning permission for Markwells Wood expired more than two years ago and the site has been suspended since 2012.

In July 2018, UK Oil & Gas (UKOG) was ordered by the South Downs National Park Authority to remove equipment and restore the site to woodland. Under a breach of condition notice, UKOG had until 17 January 2019 to clear the site and until 17 July 2019 to complete restoration.

DrillOrDrop invited UKOG to comment. This post will be updated with any response.
Markwells Wood 5 Ann Stewart slider

In May 2017 DrillOrDrop reported that UKOG had withdrawn a previous planning application after widespread objections, including those from the Environment Agency, Portsmouth Water and the South Downs National Park.

They were concerned that the proposals could contaminate the aquifer that supplies drinking water to Portsmouth.

In March 2018 we reported that a landowner had withdrawn permission for UKOG to use a strip of land to access Markwells Wood for all but abandonment and restoration work.

Despite these developments, UKOG repeatedly said it would submit a new planning application for Markwells Wood.

181018 Extract of UKOG rns

Extract from UKOG Regulatory News Service statement from 18 October 2018

Most recently, the site was included on maps of company assets in a presentation to investors, dated November 2018. Last week, a statement to shareholders described Markwells Wood as an “oil discovery pending development and/or appraisal drilling”.

A document from the government regulator, the Oil & Gas Authority, also dated last week, listed the Markwells Wood discovery along with work commitments by UKOG.

Markwells Wood Watch said in a statement this morning:

“This is obviously excellent news because UKOG’s previous plans for drilling at its Markwells Wood site always involved enormous risk.

“Its plans were almost universally opposed, not just by residents, but by the Environment Agency, Portsmouth Water and local councils, amongst many other relevant organisations and individuals.”

Markwells Wood Watch member, Julian Neal, said:

“Like other local residents, I am delighted that UKOG has finally agreed to comply with the South Downs National Park Authority’s Breach of Condition Notice and, in doing so, to abandon its Markwells Wood site for ever.

“Markwells Wood Watch looks forward to assisting the Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive, Portsmouth Water and, of course, the South Downs National Park Planning Authority in their crucial supervisory roles.”

Ann Stewart, a local resident and member of the group, said:

 “We look forward to the replanting of the 1.5 hectares of woodland that was cleared in 2009 to make way for oil exploration, in the knowledge that this will provide a richer habitat for our local wildlife.

“This area is home to many endangered and disappearing species. Locally, housing developments and road building are robbing wildlife of space to survive, so it is good to know that Markwells Wood will redress the balance a little.”

24 replies »

  1. I recall the last time this was discussed it was noted that UKOG were in the process of identifying other sites that would take into account their results from recent test drilling, and reflect the extra information they would have gathered regarding the area as a whole.

    Will be interesting to see if there might be announcements regarding new sites in the not too distant future.

    • You interest in O&G sites across the UK is amazing – have you thought about using Collywibbling as a Mastermind Special Subject Martn? Very few normal people would be able to pontificate about Markells Wood and PNR in the same day. I am genuinely in awe!

    • Are you referring to recent test drilling at Markwells Wood? If so, are you aware that they have done absolutely nothing there since 2012, except clear off a few containers at the SDNPA’s insistence. Nor have they been in any discussions with the Environment Agency or SDNPA since they withdrew their planning application in 2016, despite making claims to the contrary. (We checked)

  2. Quite easy reaction. I don’t spend my time producing, or reading Blogs, and not too much Giggling. Leaves me plenty of time to add to my knowledge elsewhere. Old fashioned, I know, but it helps with such things like the definition of “consensus”-a majority view.

    Just read further confirmation about the mining for cobalt now starting in the marine environment! Seems the “alternative” has it’s own alternative way to destroy the planet. But the upside, old chap, is you can now justify your diesel BMW on the basis you are avoiding destroying the oceans!

    Meanwhile, Black Friday seemed to have shown up yesterday at HH! So, that may help your budget sometime in the future.

    There, lots of helpful information. All free.

  3. I thought that there was no regulation in the UK?? Well many claim that!
    In fact this is a case of the EA doing its job, as permission was withheld due to a perceived risk to water supplies. Well done the EA.

    • Not quite. The EA objected, as did Portsmouth Water because UKOG showed insufficient understanding the the hydrology of the area. UKOG withdrew their planning application two days before it went to a decision by the planning committee. So permission was not withheld, it was never granted.

    • Harry – are you suggesting people harras Natascha just because she had a well-informed view on shale gas extraction?

      • Well if you think that she has a well-expressed viewpoint then raising matters with her will give her a chance to express it. That is what she is being paid for. I just about have my own submission ready to send her. It is nerely 3,000 words long (plus links to six items) and only deals with the issue of fracking dangers in former coal mining areas – such as in her former parliamentary seat. I await her words of wisdom with interest. Others may wish to pursue a range of other concerns. It is what her job is mainly about.

        • Harry – it will be interesting to see your concerns about fracking in coal mining areas. I was also born in a coal mining area and, along with my long background in this area, is one of the reasons that I’m so in favour of fracking. You will have seen in your former constituency how well we have coped with a far more intrusive industry. When you have been for walks on the five pits trail you might have noticed how well we deal with acid mine drainage but in quabititiws that are many orders of magnitude more than would ever be produced by the shale gas industry. You might also know that there were no earthquake related deaths, injuries or damage as a result of mining. Clearly there was a lot of subsidence-related damage but that would be impossible as a result of shale gas extraction due to its low compressibility.

          I’ve often heard people talk about shale gas being worse than coal mining. I’m sure those didn’t see the mine rescue services on a call out while they were going to school.

          Anyhow, Natasha is probably not the best person to answer your questions on a technical level. There are many academics who will probably give you more detailed answers. The bottom line is that there really isn’t anything to worry about.

          • I feel there is plenty to worry about especially in former areas where coal has been extracted or coal seams remain. Academics with relevant expertise express divergent views on the issue, so judgements have to be made about the significance of their differing forms of analysis – as is the case on almost any significant`issues. I am fully aware of the disasters which have occured in coal mining, with my father being in pit when 81 miners and later two rescue workers were killed. Although this was not due to underground tremours.

            There are, however, places I know where mine entrances and exits exist beneath where people live or otherwise operate which have already been disrupted by earthquake activities. Nor do I see why Natascha should not be approached on matters related to the dangers of fracking.

            This is a link to the “fracking” section of a blog I run –

            • Harry – your blog is a good example to everyone of the dangers of reading articles from a position of bias. For example, the way that you imply the large earthquakes in Oklahoma were caused by fracking is simply wrong. It’s such a shame that even an ex-academic can’t seem to read articles with an open mind one their mind is make up about a subject. That’s like I suppose.

              • The following shows the source I used for the claim which you dispute. I would be pleased to receive a link to what you see as the major challenges to this claim. If I judge that the claim is inaccurate (after some subsquent double checking) I am quite happy to withdraw or modify it. There is, however, a range of academic and other sources I can quote to back up my general position. The only thing which concerns me about the stance some anti-frackers is where some of them go over the top in militant forms of protest. For I feel that such acts can alienate potential support. However, peaceful protests seem to me to be appropriate. Then I feel that as INEOS and others look for initial vertical access points for their searches in rural areas, people are often misled into thinking that fracking is only a rural problem and does not effect people living in neighbouring urban areas. Yet the later will often be effected the most wen horizontal fracking becomes a norm. The Coal Authorities Interactive Map provides causes for concern. Use it, for instance, to home into Chesterfield and its surrounding areas. Past distant earthquakes have impacted on such areas and even low level (but still close) sciemic fracking action is a worry. See –

            • Harry – I will send you sources tomorrow.

              It used to be said that the Spire in Chesterfield would straighten itself when a virgin got married there. That of course is nonsense – so is the idea that fracking-related seismity will cause any damage to your former constituency.

            • Harry – I don’t have time to go through all of your blog highlighting untruths. However, a reasonable example is provided in your blog “Fracking, Flaws and Fracturing”. In particular:

              1) Your blog attempts to relate a 5.7 Ma earthquake in Oklahoma, which “destroyed 14 homes and injured two people”, with fracking by suggesting that fracking-related water was responsible.

              However, the USGS has made totally clear that this was caused by the injection of water produced from conventional oil reservoirs (Rubinstein et al. 2015). If the blog was being totally honest it would have also made the point that disposal of produced water from fracking in the UK will not occur by re-injection into the subsurface.
              Key reference: Rubinstein et al., 2015. Myths and facts on Wastewater Injection, Hydraulic Fracturing, Enhanced Oil Recovery, and Induced Seismicity. Seis. Res. Letts.

              2) Your blog then goes on to say that “….Subsidence and slope stability are also factors that should be considered. Subsidence is caused by underground mining and is usually associated with traditional coalfield areas. where the subsidence extends for considerable distances around collieries”.

              However, the fact of the matter is that subsidence should not be considered because the low compressibility of shale gas reservoirs means that it will not compact and hence subside when gas is produced. A key reference to this is the OGA 2013 report ( , which states “The amount that shale rock changes with the extraction of gas is expected to be almost zero, so compaction and resultant subsidence would not be expected”

              3) The blog then goes on to state “If it is thought that earthquake problems can never arise in areas such as Sheffield and Derbyshire, then click here for reports from places such as Sheffield, Chesterfield and Derby of the numbers of events which occurred from a natural incident in February 2008. Then if you also conduct a search of the area via this Coal Authority Interactive Map you will work out the range of subsidence dangers in the area which would be likely to be seriously triggered by fracking-induced seismic activity.”

              However, the latter part of the paragraph is clearly untrue as fracking-related seismic activity simply can’t induce subsidence – they are totally unrelated issues.

              • Hi Judith

                I’m not sure that your claim “disposal of produced water from fracking in the UK will not occur by re-injection into the subsurface.” is necessarily correct in all circumstances.

                The Water Directive framework, quoted in the recent permit decision document for Brockham, says:

                The discharge of produced water into groundwater within the oil bearing formation, in this specific case the Portland Sand Formation, is considered as a direct discharge to groundwater which is prohibited under the Water Framework Directive except under certain exemptions.
                One of these exemptions is:
                The injection of water containing substances resulting from the operations for exploration and extraction of hydrocarbons or mining activities, and injection of water for technical reasons, into geological formations from which hydrocarbons or other substances have been extracted or into geological formations which for natural reasons are permanently unsuitable for other purposes, provided that the injection does not contain substances other than those resulting from the above operations.

            • Paul – of course Brockham is a conventional reservoir. However, the EA’s guidance was that ““The Environment Agency will generally not permit the re-injection of flowback fluid for disposal into any formation”. Certainly none of the current environmental impact statements or planning permission for shale gas sites have included re-injection of water for disposal. Given the lessons from Oklahoma they are unlikely to do so. Although, to be fair, the incidents in Oklahoma were all when brine was injected into fractured basement. Injection into porous sandstone can be done safely as long as pressure is monitored. Indeed, if this were not the case no one would be even thinking of CO2 storage in geological formations.

          • On the Spire in Chesterfield. the INEOS rig at Bramleymoor Lane can be up to 86% of its height. The residents of Marsh Lane will not be very happy with that. I will reply to your longer item in time. At least you have improved the recent hit rate on my blog.

          • Judith : Although there is a difference of judgement between the source which I quoted and from within the source you quote back to me, even Andrew and Holland (in Rubinstein et al) end their item on the Oklahoma Geological Survey by saying “the earthquake hazard in Oklahoma has increased due to the increased rate of seismicity”. So if as you claim there is no danger of seismic activity taking place during fracking operations and then leading to surface or near surface disruptions, why have the Government imposed limits not just on the depth at which fracking operations can take place, but on the level at which consequential earthquake measurements during such operations can allow continued action ? See Section C on “Seismicity” on OGA 2013 which you drew to my attention. Then if natural earthquakes even from a considerable distances can induce subsistence and surface problems, why is this ruled out by you when it comes to fracking activities ? I await with interest as to whether Natascha will provide me with similar replies to your own to the submission I have made to her.

  4. Well Harry, I expect she will have some staff send you a pamphlet full of links. Or, tell you one will be produced shortly.

    Not too difficult. Probably won’t satisfy you, but that was unlikely to happen anyway.

    • Well if she is producing a pamphlet covering the coal mining problems associated with fracking, it will be very welcome – and will give plenty scope for numbers of us to pursue the issue further and on a wider basis.

  5. Harry – useful links in your blog.
    Btw, why have you included a pumpjack in your dramatic “Natascha Engel” collage? Seems random as pumpjacks aren’t employed in the extraction of shale gas, or shale oil for that matter.

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