Regulation

Horse Hill oil production approved: Campaigners seek legal advice on challenge; “landmark decision”, says company

190911 Horse Hill vote DoD9pg

Surrey County Council voting in favour of 20 years of oil production at the Horse Hill oil site near Gatwick, 11 September 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Plans for 20 years of oil production at the Horse Hill site near Gatwick Airport got the go-ahead from Surrey County Council’s planning committee this lunchtime.

Members voted by 7 to 2 to grant planning permission for production, four additional oil wells, a water reinjection well, oil storage and tanker loading areas.

The permission will allow the site operator, now controlled by UK Oil & Gas, to produce up to 3,500 barrels of oil a day from a total of six wells. Live updates from the decision.

“Vow to fight on”

190911 Horse Hill DoD1

Campaigners gathering outside Surrey County Council in advance of decision meeting on oil production at Horse Hill, 11 September 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

The scheme was opposed by local parish councils and campaign groups.

After the meeting, the Weald Action Group said it would seek legal advice to challenge the decision. In a statement, the group said:

“We were deeply concerned and disappointed when Councillors on the Surrey County Council Planning and Regulatory Committee voted today to give the go-ahead to massive expansion of oil drilling at Horse Hill, near Horley.

“Horse Hill Developments Ltd now has the green light to drill five new wells (one for water reinjection, which is implicated in causing earthquakes elsewhere) and commercial oil production for 25 years.”

James Knapp, of Weald Action Group said,

“Approving more drilling at Horse Hill was the wrong decision. The Weald Action Group and others had sent detailed submissions to the planning department, which were not properly represented to the Committee members.

“The Officer’s Report failed to take account of the changes in government policy on climate change, and didn’t address the risks of drilling in an active earthquake zone. We will seek legal advice on how to challenge this decision.”

“Most significant event at Horse Hill since oil discovery”

190911 Horse Hill ukog share price2

Share movements in UKOG, the Horse Hill owner, on 11 September 2019

Stephen Sanderson, chief executive of UK Oil & Gas plc, said in a statement to investors:

“This landmark milestone, perhaps the most significant event at Horse Hill since the HH-1 oil discovery, paves the way for the Company to realise the full value of future long-term production from the Horse Hill oil field, our flagship asset. It is also a key enabler that will help us achieve our goal of long-term oil production and related cash flow by year end.”

Earlier today, the company confirmed that it had acquired an extra 35% in Horse Hill for Tellurian. Mr Sanderson said:

“It fully justifies the price paid to boost our share of oil sales revenues, net Reserves and recoverable resources by over 69%.

“Now that we are firmly in control of the forward Horse Hill drilling programme and development schedule, the Company is well placed to deliver its stated goals. We look forward to maintaining the considerable forward momentum of the past weeks during the forthcoming simultaneous drilling and production testing campaign.

UKOG said oil production at the site would no longer be limited to the planning consent for extended well tests on previously permitted wells.

The company added:

“The ability to produce over the field’s economic lifespan also enables the transfer of current and future assigned recoverable resource volumes into the category of Reserves, which, by definition, conveys with more certainty that a known volume of petroleum can be produced commercially over a given time.”

This gives the company commercial certainty and is a “critical step” to use debt-based funding for field development and other capital work.

The permission also allows the company to finalise its field development plan for the licences. An environmental permit application for the extra four wells is currently under review by the Environment Agency, the company said.

Drilling on a previously permitted well, known by UKOG as HH-2/2z (see DrillOrDrop report on consent concerns) would begin drilling by the end of the month.

A further Portland production well and the water reinjection well were planned for early 2020, the company said.

At the time of writing, shares in UKOG were up 1.49% at 1.29p.

“Uncertain future of UKOG”

Jim Blackmore, of Salfords and Sidlow Parish Council, said

“We are very disappointed that the committee did not pick up those points we made about the uncertain future of UKOG.

We asked for the decision to be deferred until there was a better understanding of the financial position of the company.

“Short and limited debate”

County councillor Jonathan Essex, who watched but did not speak at the committee, said:

“It was a very short and limited debate and it did not appear that all the points raised by the submissions and the officers were addressed.”

He said the committee should have required UKOG to carry out 3D seismic surveying before any work began on site.

He also said:

“The meeting did not explore the role of climate change and it felt that most of the members of the committee were under the illusion of believing tha because we have set a target of net zero emissions for 2050 we can carry on as normal. That is not the way to deal with climate change.”

Reporting at this meeting was made possible by donations from individual DrillOrDrop readers

25 replies »

  1. Thanks Ruth and Paul for this report.

    We read that it was a:

    “Short and limited debate”
    County councillor Jonathan Essex, who watched but did not speak at the committee, said:

    “It was a very short and limited debate and it did not appear that all the points raised by the submissions and the officers were addressed.”

    He said the committee should have required UKOG to carry out 3D seismic surveying before any work began on site.

    He also said:

    “The meeting did not explore the role of climate change and it felt that most of the members of the committee were under the illusion of believing tha because we have set a target of net zero emissions for 2050 we can carry on as normal. That is not the way to deal with climate change.”

    So it was railroaded through, most of the questions were not addressed, the OGA and the BGS are seen as the only source of earthquake data and decisions, both of whome we now know to be thoroughly compromised

    “The Oil Regulator and its Three Stooges – the Industry’s Denial machine by Will Cottrell, Chairman, Brighton Energy Coop | Sep 10, 2019 | Blog

    https://brightonenergy.org.uk/2019/09/the-oil-regulator-and-its-three-stooges-earthquake-deniers-funded-by-the-oil-and-gas-industry/

    We also see that UKOG are in a state of “debt-based” funding for field development and other capital work.”

    It couldnt be more clear could it?

    A twenty year licence? No doubt that will be continually extended, however the question that may be asked is “Do we have twenty years?

    What interesting times we do live in, don’t we.

  2. “He said the committee should have required UKOG to carry out 3D seismic surveying before any work began on site.”

    Unfortunately for the Councillor the Planning Committee do not have the power to do this as it is a subsurface issue. Only PhilC’s “Three Stooges” have this power.

    I wonder how this can be challenged legally? Certainly not through a Public Inquiry as this option is not available for an approved planning application. It is possible to request the Secretary of State to call it in but this has to be done before the LPA issues the formal written approval notice. And there has to be a valid reason to call it in. Judicial Review? Costly and unlikely.

    • Ha! Whoops! Did I rain on your parade Paul! Some very raw nerves exposed and throbbing there aren’t there ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls?

      No Paul, they are not my “three Stooges” they are the OGA’s three stooges, I suggest you actually read the content of the link instead of making such bizarre avoidances.

      What is more fascinating though, is what is not addressed by your comment, this silliness is just a diversion to disguise the apparent embarrassment from that.

      Have a nice day.

      • Pleas translate into something that makes sense / we can understand PhilC. Perhaps offer your opinion of the legal options open to the antis?

        • My comments make perfect sense Paul. A damn sight more sense than anything your esteemed colleagues are capable of.

          The hysterical reply you kindly contribute merely attempts to personalise the issues, that is standard anti anti practice isn’t it? Play the man not the ball? Isnt that contrary to Drill or Drop gold standard regulations?

          Your reply is however…. frankly bizarre and even perhaps a bit hysterical.

          Please translate your comment into something that actually makes sense into anything we can all understand Paul.

          “Perhaps you can offer your own opinion of the legal options open to the antis?” Perhaps your comment opens an avenue to that, but will leave it to the legal representatives to decide that.

          I repeat, the “three Stooges” are not mine, they are the OGA planted fossil fuel influencers. That clear now?

          “The Oil Regulator and its Three Stooges – the Industry’s Denial machine by Will Cottrell, Chairman, Brighton Energy Coop | Sep 10, 2019 | Blog.

          https://brightonenergy.org.uk/2019/09/the-oil-regulator-and-its-three-stooges-earthquake-deniers-funded-by-the-oil-and-gas-industry/

          Do try to keep to the issues Paul, not make these pathetic little personalisation of issues diversions, it really does the credibility of such remarks no good at all.

          • So no legal ideas PhilC (topic of the blog). Thought not.

            The BGS was formed via a name change in 1984 although has been going since 1832. Imperial 1845 and Bristol uni 1876.

            The OGA came about in 2015. So how the OGA was able to “plant these fossil fuel influencers” around 150 years before it came into existence is quite a feat, even by your standards?

            Which part of “Perhaps offer your opinion of the legal options open to the antis?” is “frankly bizarre and even perhaps a bit hysterical”.

            The Horse Hill oil production approval is excellent news and should be celebrated.

            • Thought wrong again then didn’t you Paul? Maybe you should talk to Will Cottrell, Chairman, Brighton Energy Coop if you want clarification and some advice on that subject.

              But I don’t expect that you will.

              Who said that these “stooges” in the OGA are so historical if not hysterical? Or are you saying that you know that to be the case? Are you saying that you agree that these “three Stooges” are indeed industry plants that influence the OGA in every situation, and there have been others in the BGS and EA??

              Apparently you are. That is interesting in itself isn’t it. Would you care to tell us all who they are and what is their role in all this?

              The legal situation, that we should now return to is actually more interesting and entirely highlights the irrelevance of the apparent requirement for subsequent legal appeals by what ever convoluted path.

              What I was going to say before you lot descended into this desperate personalisation, is here:

              It is that why should objectors who are all ready hard put to fight additionally for a baseline survey at all, that should have been a gold standard requirement given by the EA, BGS and the OGA as a matter of course.

              The fact that no such baseline survey was a fundamental requirement of any such extraction production licence and permission, is yet another indication that the decision was predetermined from the start and that any gold standard world class standards are not worth the paper they are written on.

              Leaving that to the objectors to have to go though endless convoluted, maybe years long appeals, court hearings and legal applications renders the process becomes ridiculously expensive and time consuming and would not guarantee success in the slightest and would be too late anyway, since work would already have been begun on site.

              So the objectors were right from the beginning, and the fact that the debate was truncated and many questions were not addressed, is a clear and present indication that the decision was predetermined and already stacked against any objection.

              There you go, not a personalisation in sight.

              • The decision was as recommended by the Planning Department based on their assessment of the applicatiion against planning law. If the anti action group could demonstrate that the application was in breach of planning law this would have been considered. However it is unlikely that they could demonstrate any conflict successfully and hence the Planning Committee approved the application. Which must have been pretty water tight based on all the nimby scaremongering. So the objectors were wrong from the beginning.

                • Once again Paul, the point about the baseline testing should be an intrinsic part of the OGA EA and BGS regulations and conditions. (Or is it already?)

                  Because without that essential baseline evidence of the total absence of seismic events, all subsequent evidence is meaningless and as we all know there was no earthquake activity for many decades before the oil and gas operators entered the scene and then suddenly there was a swarm of ongoing seismic events.

                  So again, the absence of any requirement from the three regulatory compromised bodies, the OGA, the EA and the BGS,, which should be at least neutral in baseline testing, regardless of intention, means that the hearing for permission to extract for 20 years was fixed in favour of the fossil fuel operators by that fundamental requirement ommission.

                  Subsequent baseline data is relatively meaningless and the entire operation should never had been allowed to go ahead without extensive baseline data.

                  However, there is a way out of this for the objectors, since all the courts need to know is that the baseline is the total absence of seismic evidence of earthquake activity at all for the last few decades. As can be proven by the BGS own records. Therefore, contrary to the recent seismic testing results, any subsequent seismic data that indicates any earthquake activity at all must be by a simple conclusion, and since no other cause suggested for this recent earthquake swarm, that the recent earthquakes must be a result of the operations. And the decision must be overturned in court of necessary.

                  That throws the entire BGS and OGA decision to class the recent swarm of earthquakes as “natural” completely out of the window, all the evidence points to recent drilling activity, there can be no other conclusion.

                  So the OGA, the EA and the BGS will have to prove that the earthquake swarms are not resulting from the oil and gas operations.

                  That makes any subsequent appeal and court case very easy to prove that the committee and the regulating bodies have prejudged the outcome of both the recent seismic testing and the recent committee decision between them.

                  No Paul, the protesters are correct, and it can be easily proved from those simple facts.

                • Finally PhilC you have made a relevant comment regarding the legal recourse:

                  “So the OGA, the EA and the BGS will have to prove that the earthquake swarms are not resulting from the oil and gas operations.

                  That makes any subsequent appeal and court case very easy to prove that the committee and the regulating bodies have prejudged the outcome of both the recent seismic testing and the recent committee decision between them.

                  No Paul, the protesters are correct, and it can be easily proved from those simple facts.”

                  I don’t think there will be any legal challenge against the planning decision but let’s wait and see. If it so easy to win then no doubt they will go ahead. They could crowd fund it and you can contribute.

                  Perhaps you should take the lead in the “court case” – after all who needs Barristers etc. when it is such a certain “win”? You could try the Courts in Scotland?

                • Dear me Paul, what the heck was that? We see those throbbing raw nerves I was talking about, I must have touched a whole bucket load that time.

                  It seems that what passes for discussion here always descends into abuse when you lot have no rational argument to offer, shame really…..but hardly a surprise judging from past performance.

                  It’s just a defense mechanism though isn’t it.

                  But I did try, I promised myself that at least.

                  But there really is no rational debate at all from you lot is there?

                  Yet again ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, we see clearly why we must never allow these people to have one iota of control over our energy supply and the future energy requirements of our children and future generations.

                  They are simply not fit for purpose, if indeed any purpose?

                  Never mind, we will see if a legal challenge will expose both the recent seismic data and the planning decision to be compromised by the OGA, the EA and the BGS now that the compromised organisations are exposed, and then see where it goes.

                  Which is really what I said right from the start wasn’t it, and now it is admitted by their own words, at least we can move forwards on that.

                  Such fun!

                  Have a nice day tomorrow, to children everywhere…..

  3. Interesting that all of a sudden some feel there is enough oil to extend beyond 20 years!!

    Somewhat different assessment than that made a short while ago, by the antis and their experts. A darned big puddle!? Suppose it does fit the fracking narrative of complete industrialisation of the countryside or not economic, but equally exposed as total speculation.

    Until horizontal drilling is actually conducted, I am a little lost as to where the experience comes from. Wytch Farm? Don’t see that.

    • Grammar Martian, it’s “suddenly” not “all of a sudden” one of my parents regular grammatical corrections to the news reporters.

      The rest of that comment you have so kindly but bizarrely provided is typical of the dire state of anti anti content to date…merely irrelevant hyperbolae and desperate avoidance and diversion from anything that references anything too dangerous to discuss….

      So no change there then is there…..

  4. What great news this is. Glad the propaganda from some has been ignored.

    Looks like the anarchists will have to go elsewhere. Or maybe they could fund a challenge themselves? Lol

  5. You stick to your idea of communication, and I will stick to mine, which includes some punctuation to help the poor readers, plus some reality rather than opinion. My parents used the phrase “the empty vessels make the most noise”. Wise people, parents.

    Nice to see my post was reinforced by an RNS from UKOG today. Almost scary how relevant my comment now looks.

    Enjoy-when you DYOR.

    • Still avoiding the subject Martian? My parents had another saying, that if someone has too great an opinion of themselves, then there will never be any room left for anyone else.

      I am sure we have all felt that excluding inflated pressure from the anti antis haven’t we ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls?

  6. My parents made it clear my opinions were my own, and not to think I would be speaking for others-that would be too great an opinion of myself.

    I seem to find their views are often enforced as years go by. They also explained why their red diesel should go into their tractor, but not in their car. Wise, and honest.

    “Horse Hill oil production approved.”

    Read the RNS yet? Does help to understand the subject-for those interested. Equally, there is a nice one on the Egdon and Igas sites-but a slightly different subject.

    So much interesting, positive stuff. So few antis to deflect away from it.

  7. That’s better. I, not we. Much more grammatically correct, although a capital I would be even better. Takes a while to get away from the deflection, towards reality, but progress eventually.

  8. You still chundering on Martian? Sorry, old thing your “disussion” lost credibility about three or four posts ago, didn’t you notice?

  9. Not even chuntering, Foggy. Sorry, old thing, your “discussion” around grammar lost credibility at the same time, and was exposed for the deflection it was intended to be. Job done.

  10. In other news, Rathlin’s application to store 199 tons of Crude Oil at their West Newton site during flow testing was approved by the East Riding of Yorkshire County Council.
    Another step towards reducing imports and carbon footprint.

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