What to watch in 2021

DrillOrDrop reviews what might happen in 2021 to UK onshore fracking and other oil and gas developments.

West Newton B site in East Yorkshire in 2020. Photo: West Newton and Sproatley Gateway to the Gasfields

Fracking and the moratorium

Will the shale gas industry produce evidence in 2021 that it can accurately predict and mitigate the effects of induced earthquakes from fracking?

If so, will this satisfy ministers that they can lift the moratorium on fracking in England and presumptions against the process in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Work at four permitted shale gas sites is currently on hold while the English fracking moratorium remains in force. We’ll be watching what happens at:

  • Bramleymoor Lane, Derbyshire (Ineos)
  • Common Road, Harthill, South Yorkshire (Ineos)
  • Preston New Road, Lancashire (Cuadrilla)
  • Springs Road, Misson, Nottinghamshire (IGas)

Other site operations

Horse Hill, Surrey: UKOG has permission to drill four more production wells and a water reinjection well at this production site

North Kelsey, Lincolnshire: Egdon Resources has said it will drill this oil exploration site, first granted planning permission in 2014

Ryedale: Will Third Energy succeed in plans to turn some of its Ryedale wells into geothermal production sites?

West Newton, East Yorkshire: Will Rathlin Energy drill a second vertical well at its West Newton-B site and will it test the second well at West Newton-A?

Wressle, North Lincolnshire: Egdon Resources has told investors it will begin a workover in the New Year to prepare the well for production – the process is expected to include a proppant squeeze

Planning and permissions

Arreton, Isle of Wight: A decision on UKOG’s application for explore for oil is expected during the first half of 2021

Balcombe, West Sussex: Angus Energy’s application to test the oil exploration well drilled by Cuadrilla is expected to be decided early in 2021

Biscathorpe, Lincolnshire: Egdon Resources has said it will submit an application early in 2021 for a sidetrack well at this oil exploration site

Brockham, Surrey: The Environment Agency is considering a permit variation to allow water reinjection at Angus Energy’s site near Dorking

Ellesmere Port, Cheshire: Watch out for the decision by the local government secretary on the inquiry into IGas plans to test its shale gas well, delayed since April 2020 (see also Woodsetts)

Loxley/Dunsfold, Surrey: UKOG has said it will appeal against the refusal of planning permission to drill gas exploration wells and a public inquiry is expected

Puddletown, Dorset: We’ll be watching for news on South Western Energy’s application to drill for oil – the company and county council agreed an extension of the decision date to 28 January 2021

Springs Road, Misson, Nottinghamshire: IGas has applied to extend its planning permission for three years – the company said it would carry out no exploration work while the moratorium was in force

West Newton C and D, East Yorkshire: Rathlin Energy has said it will apply for planning permission for two more hydrocarbon exploration sites north of Hull

Woodsetts, South Yorkshire: Watch out for the decision by the local government secretary on the inquiry into Ineos plans to drill and test for shale gas delayed since April 2020

Other proposals

  • Will IGas give more details of a proposed site for two exploration wells at Loxhill in Surrey in PEDL235?
  • Will IGas go ahead with plans for hydrogen production at southern England sites?
  • Will Cuadrilla disclose where else in England it plans to explore for gas?
  • Will Angus Energy find a buyer for its Brockham licence in Surrey?
  • Will UKOG submit an application to drill for oil at Godshill on the Isle of Wight?


Horse Hill, Surrey: Will production figures at this site improve following the 2020 workover?

Saltfleetby, Lincolnshire: Will Angus Energy bring its Saltfleetby gas site on stream as promised in early 2021?

Wressle, North Lincolnshire: Will Egdon Resources meet its target for initial oil flows by late January?

Climate change

The UK government is due to publish its response to the recommendations by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) for achieving net zero. These recommendations included:

  • No flaring on oil or gas sites or platforms from 2025 except for safety reasons
  • Development of carbon intensity standards for oil and gas production
  • Monitoring of fugitive emissions, emissions, venting and flaring

The UK government is also due to publish its hydrogen strategy in 2021. The CCC said this should establish a balance between carbon-free green hydrogen, made from water using renewable energy, and blue hydrogen, made from methane using carbon capture and storage.

The long-awaited Energy White Paper warned the oil and gas sector it “must go considerably faster in reducing its own carbon footprint or risk losing its social licences to operate”. How will the government turn this warning into legislation?

In November 2021, the UK chairs the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow. How, if at all, will the conference’s decision affect the onshore oil and gas industry?

Other policies

The Scottish government has promised that its policy not to issue exploration licences for fracking would be included in the country’s fourth National Planning Framework, which will shape decision-making to 2050. A consultation draft is expected Autumn 2021.

The Northern Ireland Assembly has promised to consult the public on its review of petroleum licensing. Two applications for licences by Tamboran and EHA Exploration Limited will not be decided until the review has been completed.


Four campaigners are seeking to overturn UKOG’s injunction against protests at sites in Sussex and Surrey. The case could be heard in February 2021.

Campaigner Sarah Finch is considering whether to appeal against her failed challenge on oil production at Horse Hill.

Please keep in touch

DrillOrDrop is always very grateful for news about the onshore oil and gas industry across the UK. Please let us know about events and key issues that you think we should be reporting. Contact here

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