The oil exploration company, UK Oil & Gas plc, has revealed details of its proposed new drilling site in a village near Guildford in Surrey.
Material distributed at an information meeting in Dunsfold yesterday identified the site next to woodland, north of the aerodrome that has been used as a test track for Top Gear.
The meeting coincided with the largest earthquake so far in a swarm that started on 1 April 2018.
UKOG said in an information leaflet
“we are NOT CAUSING EARTHQUAKES” [UKOG’s capitals].
It described the seismic activity as “low magnitude tremors”, entirely natural and centred on movements of a seismically active fault”.
Yesterday’s 3.1 magnitude tremor woke people up and was reportedly felt from London to the south coast. Some people contacted the emergency services because they thought there had been an explosion at Gatwick or a major accident.
The British Geological Survey has said that before the current swarm, there were no earthquakes in Surrey in more than 50 years.
UKOG described the wellsite location as “a discreet field” in “tranquil landscape”. It is off High Loxley Road, a “narrow, winding rural lane, lined with hedgerows and mature trees”.
The company said in the leaflet it had agreed a land lease and would shortly submit a full planning application to Surrey County Council. If successful, it hoped to begin work late this year or early in 2020.
UKOG said the proposed wellsite and site access would be screened by woodland. It said there was “small linear area of ancient woodland lies to the north of the site”. It was proximity of proposed oil drilling to ancient woodland which prompted the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, to decide not to renew a lease on Forestry Commission land last year for an exploration site near Leith Hill, also in Surrey.
There are 13 listed buildings within 1km of the site. Land immediately to the north of the site is designated as an Area of High Archaeological Potential. There is evidence of a buried Roman settlement 500m south of the site, UKOG says.
UKOG has said it did not need to frack the well because the rock was naturally fractured. It said it may use an acid wash to clean the fractures after drilling. This would use acetic acid, the acid contained in vinegar, the company said.
Single well and/or sidetrack
One section of the leaflet said UKOG was seeking initial permission just to drill and flow test one well, “on a limited size well pad”.
But details of working hours and lorry movements referred to drilling an additional side-track, or horizontal well.
Another section of the leaflet said the purpose of the drilling was to “to find much-needed oil and gas for the UK’s energy security”. The leaflet also said if the operation were successful, the local community could benefit by up to £1m a year in benefits paid by the company in business rates and royalties.
On the depth of the well, UKOG gave no more details that “about ¾ mile”. In material seen by DrillOrDrop, it did not identify the target formation was. It did say that three wells had been drilled locally in 1980s and it aimed to assess their commercial viability.
A drilling rig, said to be up to 37m, would be on site for no more than 60 days. The rest of the equipment was described as low rise and low visual, the leaflet said.
The village of Dunsfold has no street lighting. But UKOG said the well site would be lit. It said:
“We will continual monitor the lighting arrangements to ensure we avoid any unacceptable light pollution”
New road junction
The company said it would need to build a new junction in High Loxley Road and what it described as minor highway improvements at the junction of Dunsfold Road and High Loxley Road.
Two trees would need to be removed where the access track met the public highway to make space for the junction, UKOG said.
The scheme would include a 1km compacted stone access track from the road to the well site.
The site itself would be built from compacted stone, surrounded by containment ditches and security fencing with entrance gates, the company said.
UKOG conceded that it would use diesel-fuelled plant and machinery and that gas from the well may be flared. The company said:
“These operations will result in the release of pollutants to atmosphere and greenhouse gas emissions with a consequential air quality impact.”
The planning application would include an air quality assessment with modelling to show the impact on people and wildlife nearby.
According to the leaflet, the operation would be through a UKOG subsidiary, UKOG (234) Ltd.
This is named after PEDL234, the exploration licence area in which the site is based. The PEDL also includes UKOG’s Broadford Bridge well site.
Accounts for the year ending December 2017 reported a loss of £2.76m, compared with a loss of £76,000 for the year before.
Proposed operations, timings and lorry movements
According to the leaflet, UKOG proposes the following work at Dunsfold if granted planning permission:
Access and wellsite construction: 14 weeks, 7am-7pm Monday-Friday; 9am-1pm Saturday, up to 10 heavy goods vehicles (HGV)/day
Drilling mobilisation: 3 weeks, 7am-7pm Monday-Friday; 9am-1pm Saturday, up to 10 heavy goods vehicles (HGV)/day
Drilling: 12 weeks, 24 hours, every day, up to 10 heavy goods vehicles (HGV)/day
Drilling demobilisation: 3 weeks, 7am-7pm Monday-Friday; 9am-1pm Saturday, up to 10 heavy goods vehicles (HGV)/day
Well testing: 26 weeks, 24 hours, every day, up to 5 heavy goods vehicles (HGV)/day
Sidetrack drilling: 12 weeks, 24 hours, every day, up to 10 heavy goods vehicles (HGV)/day
Maintenance workover: 4 weeks, 24 hours, every day, up to 10 heavy goods vehicles (HGV)/day
Plugging and abandonment: 3 weeks, 24 hours, every day, up to 10 heavy goods vehicles (HGV)/day
Removal of surface equipment: 2 weeks, 7am-7pm Monday-Friday; 9am-1pm Saturday, up to 5 heavy goods vehicles (HGV)/day
Site restoration: 5 weeks, 7am-7pm Monday-Friday; 9am-1pm Saturday, up to 10 heavy goods vehicles (HGV)/day
Or Site retention: 26 weeks, no working hours given, no lorry movements given, to allow for further application for additional work or production.
Lorry movements, though not stated, are presumed to be two-way.
Online video footage showed that some people seeking to attend the information meeting were not allowed in. Some people complained that the writing in the information leaflet was too small to read easily.
There was also disappointment that the leaflet was no available online or in digital format for people who had been unable to attend the meeting. The leaflet is now available here
UKOG distributed a questionnaire at the meeting and DrillOrDrop will ask the company for the analysis of the results.
Surrey County Council ruled on 28 February 2019 that the UKOG proposals for Dunsfold do not need an environmental impact assessment.
Details of the application for a screening request (SO/2019/0002) are on the Waverley Borough Council planning website (search by the request reference)