IGas seeks consent to continue reinjecting radioactive waste at Singleton oil site

Singleton IGas

IGas Singleton oil site in West Sussex. Photo: IGas

People are invited to comment on an application by IGas to dispose of radioactive waste at its Singleton oil site in West Sussex.

The company is seeking an environmental permit to reinject water produced from oil and gas sites in the Weald. The water would contain naturally-occurring radioactive material, known as NORM.

The application is part of an exercise to bring older oil and gas sites under environmental regulations first introduced in 2013.

IGas said reinjection of produced water had previously been carried out at Singleton. A spokesperson said:

“There has been no change in the composition of the produced water at Singleton, this is indeed just part of the re-permitting exercise. The regulator is just permitting the activity differently.”

In the application for a radioactive substances permit, the company said it was seeking consent for:

“receiving and reinjecting back to the oil producing reservoir at the Singleton Oilfield, produced waters containing NORM levels above the out of scope limits resulting from the production of oil and gas at the Singleton oilfield, other IGas onshore oilfields in southern England and produced water from the Holybourne Oil Storage Terminal.”

“Above the out of scope limits” means the level of radioactivity is high enough to be covered by environmental legislation.

The application said:

“The Singleton wellsite currently reinjects produced water separated out from on site oil production, and occasional low volume imports of produced water from the Holybourne Oil Storage Terminal [in Hampshire] which has no reinjection capability. It can also act as a contingency injection site for other IGas oilfields in the south of England should their injection well/s go off line for any reason.”

A public consultation on the application runs until 6 February 2020.

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IGas Singleton oil site in West Sussex, 24 March 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Singleton, in the South Downs north of Chichester, was first drilled in 1988 and began oil production in 1990.

The site was taken over by IGas from Providence Resources in 2013. It was IGas’s second most productive site in 2018, the most recent year for which full figures are available.

DrillOrDrop reported that Singleton produced 23,786m3 of oil in 2018. This was 2.5% of the UK’s onshore total oil production. More than 80% was from one site, Wytch Farm in Dorset.

Opponents of onshore oil and gas operations have concerns about reinjection because it has been linked in the United States to seismic activity. The Chichester area is heavily faulted and has been the centre of numerous small natural earth tremors, dating back to the 18th century.

But disposal by reinjection is a key saving for onshore oil companies. One industry boss told DrillOrDrop the salinity of produced water was so high that it was “almost impossibly expensive” to treat. As a result, he said, the water was taken by tanker to an incinerator.

Singleton 2 IGas

IGas Singleton oil site in West Sussex. Photo: IGas

Reinjection volumes

According to the Singleton application, IGas is seeking permission to reinject up to 17,000m3 of produced water a year, with a monthly limit of 2,500m3. There is no information in the application about whether this is more or less than had previously been injected.

The produced water would initially be stored in tanks, the application said. The radioactivity level would be checked by annual lab analysis.

The application documents, available online, do not include the usual non-technical summary of the proposal. They also do not include a site boundary map or a supplementary document mentioned in the application forms.

One document accompanying the application referred to now withdrawn Environment Agency guidance.

Latest guidance

The latest Environment Agency guidance, issued on 14 February 2019 said oil and gas companies could reinject produced water into geological formations from which hydrocarbons have been extracted to encourage the further production of hydrocarbons.

Produced water could also be reinjected into the geological formations that for natural reasons the Environment Agency had determined as “permanently unsuitable for other uses”.

A radioactive substances permit was not needed if the produced water was generated and reinjected at the same site. This was because the regulations did not regard produced water as waste, regardless of the NORM concentration, if it was supporting production.

A radioactive substances permit would be needed if produced water was reinjected at a different site from where it was generated and the NORM concentration was above out of scope levels. In this case, the produced water was considered to be radioactive waste.

Where operators wanted to dispose of water by reinjection (as opposed to reinject to support production) they would need a groundwater activity permit. If the NORM concentration was above out of scope levels, they would also need a radioactive substances permit.

Produced water is different from flowback fluid from fracking or well stimulation operations. The guidance said flowback fluid could not be reinjected into any geological formation for disposal, whatever the NORM concentration.

Link to consultation and documents

Environment Agency guidance on reinjection




21 replies »

  1. Well, Jono, that is most of the water across Surrey and Sussex. But, some people need to wash and others need to use Gatwick Airport.

    Someone has to decide the cheapest and most environmentally friendly way to do both, as both will continue to be done.

    • Martin, yes, let’s keep using more and more and even more fossil fuels on the basis that we have to continue to perpetuate “a need” to keep using oil.
      What a smart and sensible way of looking after the planet now and for the future.
      Scientists warned the government over 30 years ago that fossil fuels are causing a detrimental impact on co2 levels,but the government felt that it was more important to have “economic growth” rather than listening to the scientists who knew better. Now we’re paying for it environmentally and ultimately economically as well.

  2. Well, that’s not what I was suggesting. We are using oil that is producing the waste to be disposed of, as it has been, for some time. In REALITY we are producing a lot less oil on shore due to the decline at Wytch Farm. At one time it was over 100k barrels per day.

    Due to other considerations, like we may produce more diesel in UK than import it, we could produce a lot more on shore oil and not even increase our existing consumption of oil. Fawley Refinery has an expansion programme worth £800m, largely to produce more diesel and I am not certain that would remove all current diesel imports. Things may change over coming years, but that is the current situation.

    So, you can make your point, but don’t use the “yes” because your point is totally different. So, maybe I can still be smart and sensible, which may not help your point, but perhaps it was not smart and sensible to make a different point and suggest it was the same?

    • You’re are missing the point completely. The point is REALLY very simple Martin. The more oil that is abstracted from the ground the more gets burned. There is no such thing as clean fossil fuel. The more we burn the more cost to the environment. The science has proven it, it is an un-arguable fact weather you like it or not. 25 years of more oil production will cost far more to humanity than keeping it in the ground.
      But of course, the o&g industry aren’t interested in the the health and welfare of joe public least of all the environment. It’s all about “the money honey”.
      As it was pointed out on another thread the other day, it’s the same scenario as with the tobacco industry highlighting the health benefits to smoking, and look what happend …eventually the truth emerged just how bad nicotine was! And you think that the o&g industry are different??? …come now Martin …really!!

      • Ohh, I “understand” now, One. Oil is like the cookies in the barrel. The more cookies in the barrel then the more you eat! LOL

        However, I think I might prefer the reality. I can drive down to the Solent and watch the oil tankers arriving, from far and wide (or do it online). I can look at processed oil products currently imported that Fawley is intending to produce. All, without MORE oil, just some oil from one place replacing oil from another. As a result, less environmental damage, Fawley continuing to clean the Solent from the impact of those Cruise Liners, increased UK well paid employment and increased UK taxation. Less risk of another Torrey Canyon.

        So, my reality is that whilst oil is being used in UK there are still things that can be done to make that oil use better than it is now. Maybe it is the equivalent of smokers doing their thing away from others and/or changing to less harmful products, but that is the way progress is made. Head in the sand is a different bird altogether, cuckoo. Any idea as to how UK farmers will bring in the harvest in your utopia? Back to horses? Well, that is a heck of a lot of horses and a heck of an environmental problem.

    • Martin, the point I was making (due to you not being able to read between the lines) is that it should not be necessary to have to reject the waste because there shouldn’t be any more onshore drilling for fossil fuels. The governments should have been phasing out the need for fossil fuels 40 years ago. However,
      They didn’t, because they believe that the economic value of the fossil fuel industry is far mor important than the health and welfare of our planet.

      • Or, maybe they thought paying out £2 billion every now and again (N.I) for failed alternatives in the future suggested that a balanced energy approach was needed until alternatives got over the failure stage? I could also include the £150k/wind turbine/year net income that has now been phased out, and many others. (I know a young lady who invested into that. £150 on a set of sexy undies, and hey presto, snared the chap and a few years later and three kids later is very happy. Fortunately, he had other ventures, so the wind turbine income maybe not a current problem.)

        The alternative energy sector is just as guilty as fossil fuels in lobbying Government, and in many cases gets its way and fails to produce the goods, and with real consequences to people. Still to see a skull and cross bone sign on an electric car!

    • One flew over the cuckoo’s nest.

      Ah! I remember the scaremongering from that time.

      It went something like this.

      ‘All those people moving to Spain to live will be moving back to the UK because nobody will be able to live in the heat with the effects of global warming’

      The reality is something far different & the majority of those people who are looking to move back will be those who will not qualify for UK pension payments or increases after Britexit!

    • Jackie

      In this case I agree with you. Looking at the headline I thought that I gas were going to indulge in the long predicted game of popping nuclear waste into old oil wells. However, the report does clarify what the proposal is.

      Given that journalism requires click bait to drag you into the story, it may be excusable, though misleading, especially as no one has yet been fooled by the headline into thinking it is anything other than produced water re injection.

      As the Aberdeen Post said of the Titanic …. Local man drowns at sea ( and then you would need to ‘read all about it’ll get the full picture.)

  3. Sir,
    This is very important issue.
    Instead of injecting radioactive waste in the ground on the site, better try plazma technology, which is most effective to treat any kind of waste , without further polluting .

    It needs to be further studied n experimentation.

    • Kaushik

      Produced water flows from the reservoir to surface and then is put back into the reservoir. No need to dispose of it above ground, it is normally happy to go back where it came from after a few minutes, or hours journey.

      The problem is if you want to inject it into a different reservoir, which is why you need additional permission ( under the new regulations ).

  4. Kaushik

    This is material taken out of the ground being put back into the ground. I think the polluting bit is your addition. If no polluting has occurred, further polluting is not the issue. Yes, if polluting is occurring and a better method can then be introduced, fine. All things that will be considered for the permit.

    Underground there are plenty of materials that when brought to the surface can pollute, if not correctly handled. Cobalt for electric vehicles is another. I feel much more confident that UK can deal with this waste effectively than the DRC can deal with cobalt. I used to deal with cobalt in small quantities. Even then, my company had to include a skull and cross bone symbol upon the packaging, until we decided it was too dangerous for our staff to handle it and we excluded it. Yet to see an electric vehicle with a skull and cross bones!

    • When my lad played a lot of football, his team often played when the ref. managed the opposition, Jackie. He learned more than football. Double benefit.
      He did have to replay one match abandoned with 5 minutes to go when they were leading 4:0, so they waited for the re-arranged match and won 5:0. Before the first match was abandoned one of his friends was booked (the only one, over 5 years) for ungentlemanly conduct. He picked up the ball to hand to the ref. as a whistle had blown on the neighbouring pitch!

      My wife had to wash the kit, so she had an issue, but my son quite enjoyed the extra game.

  5. Is the liquid being re injected above the level which qualifies it as low level radioactive waste? If so it should be treated as all other such material & sent to the Low Level Waste Repository. Too much radwaste is being ” disposed of” by mickey mouse organisations for profit since government flexed the rules.

    • Tim

      The company seeks to re inject produced water,something it has done before. Under the more recent rules it requires more permissions than before. Do you see that this additional scrutiny and need for additional permission as flexed rules?

      I am sure that some companies would prefer to operate under the old {non flex?}? rules which gave them more leeway to re inject into other reservoirs other than where the produced water came from – which you seem to support. However I think BOW and others are keen that oil and gas sites comply with the more recent laws {and the need for new permits} would disagree with you on the adequacy of the waste regulations and in particular their link to EU directives.

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