Two sides disagree on benefits of Arreton oil drilling plans

Oil exploration plans on the Isle of Wight would “make the best use” of mineral resources in the transition to a low carbon future, the company behind the proposals has said. But local campaigners have disputed the arguments and said they should be rejected.

UKOG’s proposed Arreton well on the Isle of Wight. Source: UKOG diplay panel

UK Oil & Gas plc (UKOG) has submitted an updated planning statement to Isle of Wight Council, which will decide its application for drilling at Arreton.

The statement, by UKOG’s planning consultant Nigel Moore, refers to changes to government energy and climate change policies made since the Arreton application was submitted more than a year ago.

There are striking similarities between the Arreton statement and Mr Moore’s proof of evidence to the inquiry into UKOG’s gas exploration plans at Loxley, near Dunsfold in Surrey, at which he was a witness last week.

Both Arreton and Loxley are on greenfield sites, near Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and have plans for an initial borehole with a potential sidetrack.

A key difference between them is the target hydrocarbon at the two sites.

The Arreton site would target the Portland oil formation, UKOG told local people at a  community exhibition, in December 2019. The company said a former oil well, Arreton-1,  confirmed the existence of hydrocarbon. A report by the consultancy Xodus estimated a gross mean aggregated oil in place at Arreton of 227 million barrels. There are no proposals at Arreton to use any gas found in association with oil exploration.

Despite this, Mr Moore’s planning update for the proposed site said:

“In helping to secure the gas supplies the UK will need the proposed development will help deliver a ‘well-managed transition’ that will improve people’s lives and reduce their exposure to climate risks while making the UK economy more resilient in the face of a wide range of import-dependent energy supply risks.”

This is an exact copy of a paragraph from Mr Moore’s proof of evidence for the Dunsfold public inquiry.

His updated statement referred six times to the smaller carbon footprint of domestically-produced gas, compared with imported liquified natural gas (LNG).

He also said the potential contribution of the site to hydrogen production was of “particular relevance”, to which he attributed “significant weight”.

Don’t Drill The Wight said:

“There will be no capture of gas [at Arreton] to help achieve national strategies for net zero emissions. The quantities of gas predicted even from full development are not economically viable for harvesting and storage.”

Comparison of the two documents by DrillOrDrop shows there are a total of 10 paragraphs which are identical (1.1, 1.2, 1.4, 1.5, 1.7, 1.9, 2.1-2.4 in the update and 4.3, 4.4, 4.37, 4.6, 4.9, 3.14 and 4.33-4.36 in the Dunsfold proof of evidence).

Paragraphs 1.3, 1.6, 1.10 and 1.11 in the update are virtually the same as paragraphs 4.20, 4.7, 3.15, 4.12 in the proof of evidence.

Strategic need

Mr Moore makes the case in his update that UK policies, including the 2020 Energy White Paper, establish a strategic need for further onshore exploration of conventional hydrocarbons for energy security and climate change mitigation.

Sylvia May, of Don’t Drill The Wight, responded:

“there is no current Government Energy policy that I am aware of, that can be used to confirm Mr. Moore’s view, that there is a strategic need for exploitation from new conventional onshore fossil fuel reserves.”

The group said the White Paper focussed almost exclusively on the offshore sector and the objective of ensuring the UK Continental Shelf (North Sea) is a net zero emissions basin by 2050.

A ministerial statement and policy paper from earlier this year do not relate to the new development of an onshore oil and gas sector either, the group said.

Climate change and net zero

Mr Moore said the Arreton proposal would help the UK meet the needs of climate change targets, including net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Don’t Drill The Wight described the Arreton oil proposal as “the antithesis of Mr Moore’s claims for supporting NPPF policy and National strategies for emissions reduction”.

It said reports submitted in the application indicated that it would increase, rather than reduce current levels of emissions.

Local economic benefits

Mr Moore said exploration at Arreton would bring “significant national economic and employment benefits”.

The proposed site would, he said, create 30 full-time jobs, sustain permanent jobs at UKOG’s Guildford headquarters and pay Isle of Wight business rates.

There would also be income from farm diversification that would “secure the long-term viability” of an agricultural business, he said. Expenditure on the site would also benefit the local economy, in compliance with the National Planning Policy Framework.

Don’t Drill The Wight said employment opportunities would be temporary and limited, with no guarantee of extended permanent employment. Some local business would benefit – through providing materials, transportation and accommodation – but only in the short-term, the group said.

There would be no local or national economic benefit from oil production because the application was for exploration and appraisal only, Don’t Drill The Wight said. Business rates would be minimal, it added.

In a response to Isle of Wight Council planners, Sylvia May said:

“I respectfully ask you to review and reject these claims made by Mr Moore and not give them credence in your recommendation to the planning committee.”

  • Isle of Wight Council is expected to decide the Arreton application in the autumn.

19 replies »

  1. Desperate UKOG will be bust before long , 👋 bye bye
    The world is on Code Red but they still don’t get it . No more new exploration.

  2. Meanwhile, at Arreton, new houses are being built, after planning first refused and then granted with costs awarded.

    Houses are permanent, oil sites temporary.

    And the oil tankers steam past IOW on a regular basis carrying the oil from thousands of miles away, to the refinery at Fawley that can be seen from IOW. Source locally-just like Wytch Farm, and Stockbridge etc. Maritime transport produces greater emissions than Germany. Opportunity to reduce that, for those who wish to have any credibility regarding climate change. Should be grasped to help to mitigate the increase in shipping that will come from the area becoming a free port.

    • Rubbish Martin, same old , same old , there’s more than enough oil and gas being extracted without this lot of chancers , how are UKOG doing from the biggest hyped oilfield in the UK ? Gatwick dribbler. Maybe we should stop exporting if we need it so much.

  3. No, not rubbish, Jono. All factually correct.

    Whether there is oil there and can be extracted is another issue altogether. But if it could, then the transport emissions would be less than, for example, bringing oil from Nigeria. Fact. If it isn’t, and can’t, then there is no issue. The land would soon be available-for more housing??

    And, of course UK should not stop exporting oil. The market needs to able to balance oil according to what type is needed where and when. Without that, the consumer just pays more. You will not crowd fund to prevent that.

    Maybe oil should not be exported to IOW, for their oil fired power station at Cowes? Or, the diesel to help the houses being built at Arreton? Or, to fuel the ferries, carrying IOW people to work at Fawley Refinery, or bringing the builders from the mainland to build IOW houses? And shipping in all those tourists. But, all of that will continue, so why should IOW want to export their carbon footprint even more than they do? Greta would not be happy. She doesn’t think much of those who just want to plonk their responsibilities over the horizon.

  4. All this Global warning crap is bullsht consider the amount of coal that was burned in the 50s & 60s you don,t see smog anymore. yet were producing more Co2 now than back then ? I don,t belive it

    • So you are right and everyone else is wrong ? Not surprising with Gasman as a monicker, you are full of hot air .
      Between 65% and 80% of CO2 released into the air dissolves into the ocean over a period of 20–200 years. The rest is removed by slower processes that take up to several hundreds of thousands of years, including chemical weathering and rock formation. This means that once in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide can continue to affect climate for thousands of years. What was burned in the 60s is still having an effect on the atmosphere now , even tho coal is supposedly being phased out. ( except if the Tories get their way in Cumbria )
      Sulfurous smog, which is also called “London smog,” results from a high concentration of sulfur oxides in the air and is caused by the use of sulfur-bearing fossil fuels, particularly coal. This type of smog is aggravated by dampness and a high concentration of suspended particulate matter in the air.
      Bullsht is caused by idiots who care more about getting rich quick than the planet they live on.
      There’s your facts Martin .

      • Well, Jono, perhaps if you had a word with the Germans and certainly the Chinese, they may be so impressed with your ability to use a search engine, they would change their energy policy?! But, they won’t. They may say they will, but they won’t. Those are facts.
        And, meanwhile, you will campaign to make certain that maritime transport emissions continue to be higher than even the emissions of Germany. So, sorry, I see you as causing protest by idiots who care more about protest than progress. Credibility regarding climate change? Sorry again-zero. Anti capitalists in sheep’s clothing-but usually made from fossil fuel, playing on their keyboards- made from fossil fuel.

        Getting rich quick? No way to talk about Mr. Musk and his issues with ignoring the environment in Germany and trashing a forest prior to obtaining the necessary permissions. Or, Cash from Ash! Now, there was a good one-unless you lived in N. Ireland and had to suffer the political limbo that resulted for years following. Leasing your roof for solar energy and then finding you couldn’t sell your house?! Then, over £100k per wind turbine net profit per year guaranteed, even if the electricity was not required, just to show land owners “supported” on shore wind turbines? Of course they did! All facts, Jono. Inconvenient, but still facts. Getting rich quick is alive and well-within the renewable sector.

        It is indeed disingenuous to suggest that oil produced here stays here, Isla W, but I don’t believe anyone has suggested that. What is fact, is that UK is currently a net importer of oil, so that means it uses more than it produces. Be careful about going down that silly road. You will quickly arrive at a point where you will see that UK imports over 50% of the diesel used, and that is due to processing capacity. Guess which refinery has plans to address that? Yes, Fawley. So, there could be IOW oil processed at Fawley into diesel, and transported back to IOW to be used on a building site at Arreton for enabling new houses to be built. With all the concern about air miles, why not have the same concern about oil miles? If there is no local production there is no possibility to address that, and local production (Wytch Farm) is declining. When that possibility exists then how on earth could anyone genuinely interested in the environment try to prevent it? But, if you wish to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution, it is your choice. Perhaps take a look at how much energy IOW produces compared to what it uses? IOW is very much an energy importer, yet is constantly trying to increase tourism which increases it’s energy requirement. Maybe, when an opportunity is there, it should do something to try and address that, rather than rely upon interconnectors where others are protesting about them a short distance away?

      • MARTIN ,

        Thanks for bringing up China.

        Let JACK enlighten you on what the Chinese are looking at doing to tackle pollution and climate change , it dwarfs some of the current lofty ambitions that are being batted around in Europe .

        GREAT NEWS isn’t it MARTIN ???????

        Just think , how many thousands of tons of CO2 and other toxic gases/chemicals will NOT be pumped in to the atmosphere from NOT burning fossil fuels.

        The good news is, the real BIG fossil fuel energy suppliers are already thinking ahead on this matter . Widening their energy supply portfolios to also include greener produced energy , which will not only be popular with the public , it will also make good business sense , which in turn will also be good for shareholders .

        Against the growing demand for greener energy , the small, two bit companies , well they’ll continue to ONLY dig holes in the ground . Their future will be limited on the amount of time they can continue to milk their investors .

        • Interesting, Jack- that you believe the rhetoric. When I see the substance I may follow suit, but I suspect I will wait a long time. I recall the promises regarding democracy in Hong Kong. You are entitled to your stance that a link equals reality. I prefer to apply experience of what actually happens.

          Have you ever tried to do business with companies in China? I would suggest caution with the rhetoric and a close watch on the experience.

          Yes, the big oil companies are thinking ahead. They usually do. Which I have previously discussed on this site with Dr. Rugman. Unfortunately, many of the antis are really anti capitalists and frown upon Big Oil having anything to do with transition. You can look at the nonsense about what colour hydrogen should be to make it ideal, and if not ideal, then it should not happen because it is only green washing. Quite simply, it will take the financial clout and scientific experience of Big Oil to roll out hydrogen and good luck to them, I say. Without that, these things will be slowed to a snails pace as costs of Covid are recovered. Sufficient tax increases to pay for both will not be acceptable.

          Every company fits your last sentence, until they start to make a sustained profit. Perhaps the biggest example of this over the last 15 years or so is-Tesla! So, it is apparent that start up/exploration phases can last a long time if investors continue to support. But I do recall your previous glee-misplaced-around the price of oil and that it would not recover for a very long time, if at all. Well, here we are, back at $70/barrel and forecast to rise further, so I think I will continue to view what actually happens rather than rhetoric, Jack.

  5. How much oil extracted in this country is transported around the world? Not very much from UKOG granted, but it is disingenuous to suggest that oil produced here stays here.

      • Mike – all your answers are in Dukes. 2021 is available although it may be better to look back at 2020 as that was more representative.

        Look at chapter 3 Oil & Oil Products. Most North Sea production is exported and a roughly equivalent amount is imported. For refined products we imported more than we exported.

        The main reason we export / import is to do with the crude oil specification – our refineries are generally set up for types of crude oil that we don’t produce hence the imports. And our exports command a premium price due to better quality.

        The gas chapter is also interesting.

  6. Would be a lot more, Mike, if UK didn’t import so much of the diesel that it uses-including that required for the protestors vehicles to trundle from protest to protest, funding some overseas country. Maybe those overseas countries want to hold on to such a nice little earner?

    But, nice to see that Fawley has helped to increase the output of synthetic rubber to go into medical devices that were required in increased quantity during Covid. I suspect the hospitals on IOW were glad about that.

  7. Interestingly the ‘transition fuel’ argument was successfully used in submission to the enquiry into Cuadrilla’s application to test frack Lancashire’s green and pleasant Fylde countryside. Could be using the same scriptwriter.
    Obviously this scheme crashed and burned thanks to the swarms of Hydrofrac Earthquakes they caused. Cuadrilla are still carrying out extended well pressure testing however unbeknown to the majority of local residents.

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