No UK onshore oil or gas wells drilled in 2021 – official data

For the first time since 1935, no onshore oil or gas wells were drilled in a calendar year, according to 2021 data from the industry regulator.

Total UK onshore oil and gas wells 1902-2021. Source: Oil & Gas Authority

Wells were drilled every year throughout the Spanish flu pandemic (1918-1920) and the second world war.

But according to the Oil & Gas Authority’s public wellbore search, no onshore wells were spudded between 1 January 2021 and 31 December 2021. This is an 86-year-low for the onshore industry.

In the same period, 65 wells were drilled offshore in the UK, the database confirms.

Total UK onshore oil and gas wells 2000-2021. Source: Oil & Gas Authority

The number of onshore wells drilled each year has fallen since 2014, the last time it was in double figures.

Previous analysis by DrillOrDrop showed that onshore drilling reached a 70-year low in 2020. Just two wells were drilled, both at Rathlin Energy’s West Newton-B site. One of these wells missed its target and the second, a sidetrack, reported formation damage following testing.

In 2019, we reported that five wells were spudded, two of which were at one site (Horse Hill). The others were at Misson in Nottinghamshire, Biscathorpe in Lincolnshire and West Newton-A in East Yorkshire.

The number was even lower in 2018, when wells were drilled at just three sites (Preston New Road in Lancashire, Stockbridge in Hampshire and Tinker Lane in Nottinghamshire).

In 2017, six wells were drilled – at Brockham in Surrey, Broadford Bridge (2) and Lidsey in West Sussex, and Preston New Road (2). But this was still a 50-year-low for the onshore industry.

What is deterring UK onshore drilling?

Results from Oil & Gas Authority’s public wellbore search for onshore wells drilled in 2021

Operators have blamed various factors for the lack of drilling in recent years. These have included low oil prices and falling demand, contractual disputes, delays with equipment, a moratorium on fracking in England, planning refusals and covid-19.

The fracking moratorium, in force since November 2019, remains in place.

There are currently no planning permissions for shale gas drilling in England. Cuadrilla’s consent for shale gas drilling at Preston New Road has expired. IGas is preparing to give up the Misson site in Nottinghamshire, which had consent for a second well, but permission lapsed and an extension was refused.

The average price of Brent crude, the benchmark for UK oil, dropped to $41.96 in 2020, the first year of the covid-19 pandemic. That year, onshore companies, such as IGas and Egdon, reported falls in revenue as sites were shut in and production cut.

But in 2021, demand for hydrocarbons increased and the average oil price rose to $70.4 a barrel, exceeding $83 dollars a barrel in October.

At prices like these, there were profits to be made for producing sites, with operating costs around $33 per barrel of oil equivalent (IGas, 2020).

In August 2021, Egdon Resources and Union Jack both said production from the Wressle well in North Lincolnshire would transform their businesses at current oil prices.

Several wells planned for 2021 were not drilled, for various reasons.

Horse Hill, UKOG: Two planned for 2021 were put on hold until drilling was completed in the company’s licences in Turkey.

North Kelsey, Egdon: A well planned for 2021 was not drilled. The company blamed covid-19 and delays in materials and contractors. A new planning application for this site has been submitted

West Newton-B, Rathlin Energy: Another well at this site was planned for the second half of 2021 but was not drilled. Planning permission for this site is due to expire in 2022.

Planning refusals: Applications for well drilling were refused in 2021 at: West Newton-A, East Yorkshire; Arreton, Isle of Wight; and Biscathorpe, Lincolnshire.









15 replies »

  1. Interesting, but hardly surprising that demand results in what price is set and then production is made available to meet that demand. Same can be seen in USA if the weekly drilling stats. are observed-although there the major difference is that there is much more oil and gas to go after.

    Somewhat disappointing for those who try and peddle the myth that output drives demand. Covid impact has shown what a nonsense that is, and that protest has no impact upon overall demand and production.


    Will the Green levies be “temporarily” removed from energy bills? Where would they go to within general taxation? Once the public realise what they have been paying will they let them be returned to their bills? Or, will they cry out for more local gas and oil to be made available to at least help fund the removal of green levies via taxation upon industry rather than upon them as individuals?

    (I suspect they will not. Can not have Joe Public being made aware of what they are being charged! Apart from which, such a proposed move hardly targets those less able to pay their energy bills. Although, there will be plenty within the debate to come that will make certain that Joe Public is made aware.)

  2. Hardly surprising that drilling ceased, given the low demand and consequent low world oil prices. Both the latter have clearly reversed, despite the seriousness and urgency of AGW. Were UK drilling rigs lying idle or are they hired in from abroad when needed? I assume they are largely owned and leased by specific O&G services companies? Whichever, they must have been pretty much idle worldwide for about 18 months through the pandemic.

    • You can find out number of drilling rigs working globally via the Baker Hughes rig count:

      Significantly higher than a year ago e.g. International up from 669 to 817 rigs working outside the US from Nov 2020 to Nov 2021. Currently nearly 1,500 drilling rigs working worldwide. Offshore included.

      There is a very small pool of onshore drilling rigs in western Europe, they are moved around to where the work. If you need one try:

  3. Yes, and shock/horror, holiday bookings, pub trade and sales of new cars were also down. Essential business did receive trillions world wide to keep them afloat, hence the levels of inflation now being seen-and funded by the individual.

    And during 2021 there were posters gleefully posting on DoD about the demise of oil and gas companies due to the drop in demand, seemingly ignorant of what would happen as demand started to return. Wonder why individuals have such difficulty not being able to plan, and save, for future events, when many are enjoying extra disposable income they have restricted opportunities to spend.

    Amazon and Tinder seemed to do quite well though! “Working from home”, I believe it is termed.

  4. Plenty of rigs around. Even some of the workover rigs will do the job. BDF, PW Well Services and Entrepose Drilling to name a few. It is the lack of onshore oil and gas that is the problem. It is either not there or under someone’s property. Apart from Wytch Farm, oil is a joke onshore and just keeps Directors in a job imo.

  5. Well, Mike, once the fruit has been picked there is not that much left to pick.

    So, one might ask -what is all the fuss about?!

    Within the context of what volume of oil and gas is used in UK the volume of on shore oil and gas is tiny. If UK is not willing to even use that remaining tiny bit in preference to more from overseas and thereby reducing impact upon climate change, it does question motivation. Is protest more important than progress? Are people willing to make small sacrifices for the sake of the planet? The hypocrisy involved with such questions is very evident, with some claiming to be concerned about the planet actually working against it.

    2022 and some more maths. Wytch Farm used to produce significantly more than 100k barrels per day, now down to 10-15k. Any new oil wells in UK would be unlikely to even return UK to where it has been in terms of local production. As Greta has stated, UK too interested in exporting a carbon footprint. My addition to that would be, it is a bigger carbon footprint when exported.

    The under someone’s property is an interesting one. I recall when oil was over $100/barrel that local media did a review on expected oil deposits locally. There were a number. All of them covered with new housing estates. Usage of oil from those new housing estates far greater than what might have been extracted. Population growth and demand, the inconvenient realities.

  6. “Within the context of what volume of oil and gas is used in UK the volume of on shore oil and gas is tiny. If UK is not willing to even use that remaining tiny bit in preference to more from overseas and thereby reducing impact upon climate change, it does question motivation. Is protest more important than progress? Are people willing to make small sacrifices for the sake of the planet? The hypocrisy involved with such questions is very evident, with some claiming to be concerned about the planet actually working against it.” , writes your correspondant.
    Caveat emptor: I think most consumers of DorD will be wary of buying such an egregious example of misappropriation of the ethically-based arguments of those opposed to fossil fuel development.
    Take for example “and thereby reducing impact upon climate change”,and “Are people willing to make small sacrifices for the sake of the planet?”
    It is far from accepted wisdom that a domestic FF industry would reduce impact upon climate change for the sake of the planet. This contrived myth is debunked. As has been said many times, the UK’s embarking upon new FF activities would send the wrong signals to the world, an example likely to be seized upon by others also deprived of moral compass, leading to proliferation and certain disaster.
    Furthermore, one man’s progress is another man’s death sentence.
    It is not altogether clear what is meant by the writer’s question “Are people willing to make small sacrifices for the sake of the planet?” If the small sacrifices hoped for involve the exploitation of potential domestic sources of FFs, they are unlikely to help the Maldives, the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Palau. Such “small sacrifices” are in reality intended to help the UK rather than the planet. They will not, of course. It really is about time that the argument be framed in terms other than what might be helpful for the British economy. We who have wrought such disasters upon such a huge tranche of planet earth should now turn our attention to what will be of benefit to all, and this in common with the exploited world.
    Nor should FF exploitation continue to be argued as necessary –
    Climate Home News Published on 13/10/2021, 11:45am Maria Pastukhova

    “The bad news is that the “stubbornness of the status quo” has already locked many economies into stranded assets, even in the gas sector, so often considered the “last transition fuel”. The IEA projects that most of the 200 billion cubic metres worth of LNG projects under construction will not recover their invested capital, with the total stranded capital estimated at $75 billion – enough to have covered three quarters of investments needed to reach 2030 renewable energy targets in all African countries. It reiterates that no investments in new coal mines and power plants or new oil and gas fields are required in the transitioning global economy.”

    • Nope, 1720, what UK does is hardly what is followed by the rest of the world. Talk about having to contrive an argument totally unsupported by fact. Just imagine all those Boris types being elected! All those countries leaving the EU! I am sure the Australians will follow the UK lead in how to lose Test matches. LOL.

      Is it that you still have an Atlas or globe with lots of pink bits? Bit of advice-do not visit too many countries and patronise their citizens by such colonial style rhetoric.

      The reality is that if UK continues to demand oil and gas and decides not to produce locally there will be plenty of other countries quite willing and able to increase their production, export a bit more to UK and receive the dosh, and create local income. There will be plenty acting as lobbyists for that to happen and denying that transportation produces emissions, even though there are published statistics showing the magnitude of maritime transport emissions, and maritime disasters. Nord Stream 3 or 4 as an alternative?

      Maybe you (we) want to make up for your guilt about the disasters you have wrought. You will not be the first to demonstrate that. I have no guilt in that I have had a career that has involved helping many in various parts of the globe. Some via plastic, some via aviation fuel. I leave it to you and Maria to risk a trip to the North East and let them know their stubbornness of the status quo was not required and they should have turned away the diesel powered generators when their power supplies were trashed! I am not so sure they would have wanted to make the gesture to others that fossil fuels should not be used-maybe another gesture, but not that one.

      (Spoke with a builder today building new houses on IOW. Recently tried two electric diggers on their site. Okay, but limited. Then, in the afternoon, the diesel powered generator was delivered to charge them up and allow them to be used the next day! Plus, the generator had been brought across on the ferry, powered by?????)

      Please explain your last paragraph and how that fits with our recent chats about Mozambique? Doesn’t look as if that country is too convinced by the IEA. Or India. Or Russia. Or China. Or USA, and many others. Why are they not following UK? Surely, they should be following “our example” because, why-it has been said many times before?

      Perhaps check the definitions of saying, listening and acting? Ermm-if it has been said many times before and so many are not listening or acting, then perhaps there is a flaw within the proposition?

  7. The primary function of language, Martin, is to communicate. Try it.
    If I say something has often been said before, it is because I wish to excuse my repetition but need to draw attention to the point. It is not a definitive demonstration of the validity of my argument.
    In your usual trivialising manner, intended as a diversionary tactic, your first paragraph misrepresents the point. If the host of COP26 ignores its own rhetoric and develops FFs, then its example will be noted and, I suggest, followed by others. The latter may of course have done so anyway, but without the collaboration and connivance of a weak presiding nation. You may think such affirmations have something to do with colonialism, but my guess is that you adduce the comparison to discredit the point.
    Your test matches, friendly builders, Maria’s trips to Newcastle – (I should probably remember who Maria is but don’t) – Mozambique, your claimed innocence with respect to colonial crime by virtue of your good works, etc. have little purchase upon or relevance to my point that the development of local sources of FFs will for various reasons have a deleterious effect on the battle against climate disaster.
    Your final sentence is interesting, however. Do you really think that if advice is given but not followed, then ipso facto the advice was wrong? Such a position, Martin, is untenable, even for you. Christ proposed love for one’s fellow men, with all that that entails, as the way of living one’s life. In general, man has not followed this advice. Were there therefore flaws in the initial proposition?

  8. OMG!

    A lot of words with no meaning again.

    Just to point out it was someone referenced as 1720 who quoted Maria on January 3rd at 5.14pm, as support for their many words. Will you deny Christ tomorrow? (That has been done.)

    Typical activist, put some stuff together in an attempt to make a point and disown just a day later-even to defend the point they had attempted the day before. Entertaining, certainly but I can think of a New Year resolution that would produce a vast improvement.

    Don’t join the armed forces, either 1720. “Come on chaps/ladies. If we retreat so will everyone else.” More flaws within the proposition.

    Language and communication? Is that the language where “news” is defined as noteworthy information yet some produce a lot of words and then argue they have not supplied any noteworthy information?

    Language and communication that allows people to take part admitting they know little about the subject and without communicating noteworthy information. Okay, but I try it a different way, where I recall what I have posted because I believed in the noteworthy information sufficiently to post it initially and then recall it.

    Glasshouses and stones, 1720. Or, make sure your feet are firmly planted before you take a swing otherwise you end up flat on your face.

  9. Too many words, Martin? Clearly you’ve had problems working out the meaning. Sorry I didn’t simplify enough. As I feel you now know, there is little about climate change and solutions which is simple, complexity is factored in.
    There were four main points:
    Firstly, the meaning intended by my pointing out that something has often been said before.
    Secondly, the likelihood of COP26 host’s ignoring of its own recommendations acting as an incentive for other venal parties to follow.
    Thirdly, some adverse comments on the nature of and reasons for the irrelevance of your posting. (Thank you for reminding me who Maria was: I do not know the lady personally and had paid little attention to the name of the author of a quotation I deemed relevant. I do not deny her existence.)
    Finally, the nonsense of the proposition that because people are not following particular advice, the advice therefore is wrong.
    If you wish to engage in a conversation with grown-ups, Martin, it’s a good idea to try and follow the argument, picking up the points made, either to refute or accept them while, of course, adducing your own (preferably relevant) arguments. Conversely, it’s not a good idea to concentrate on a minor detail – my overlooking the name of the author of my quotation, then suggesting that I was denying her and her point, and, for good measure, Christ, because “that has been done”. That’s just silly.
    I won’t be responding to your inevitable reply, Martin, because it’s just not worth it.
    When ‘discussing’ with you, I feel myself in the position of the Astro-physicist and his student in “Don’t Look Up”. The poor couple tried everything, to encounter only …. Well, to avoid censure, I’ll say ‘incomprehension’. Do watch the film: despite everything, it’s funny. I think I got it on Netflix. George Monbiot gives a little too much away in –

  10. Well, my astro-physicist friend, I did post a more comprehensive comment, but it has vanished! Perhaps you may be able to find it?

    A much shorter version:

    Climate change is complex? Agreed

    Campaigning against local production of fossil fuels helps with respect to climate change? Nope, it does not. Wrong solution. Campaigning against demand much better. Therefore I support HS2.

    Not too difficult really, and it has been stated before, so it must be true.

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