Onshore gas industry hits back at senior Tory’s criticism of Dunsfold drilling plans

The onshore oil and gas industry has “strongly contested” comments made by the former Tory leadership contender, Jeremy Hunt, about drilling plans in Surrey.

Mr Hunt, a former foreign secretary and now chair of the health select committee, told a demonstration at Dunsfold at the weekend:

“It is absolutely extraordinary after COP26 in Glasgow that we are even thinking about drilling for oil and gas in this area’’.

The MP, whose constituency includes Dunsfold, said gas exploration proposed by UK Oil & Gas plc (UKOG) would take the UK in “exactly the wrong direction” in its pursuit of net zero carbon emissions.

Jeremy Hunt at demonstration in Dunsfold on 8 January 2022. Photo: DrillOrDrop

But the industry body, UK Onshore Oil & Gas (UKOOG), said today the scheme, which is to be decided by the communities’ secretary, Michael Gove, was “fully compliant with the UK’s post COP26 net zero and hydrogen policies, as well as making economic sense”.

In a letter to Mr Hunt, UKOOG’s policy manager, Charles McAllister, said the cost of importing gas by 2050 would rise to nearly £2 trillion at the current high prices.

There could be “little ambiguity” about the need for oil and gas in the transition to net zero or the cost to the economy of importing them, he said.

Mr McAllister also said imported gas had a “significantly higher precombustion carbon footprint than domestic gas”. He said:

“Based on our assessment, the further development of the domestic UK natural gas industry would reduce the overall UK carbon footprint by 115 million tonnes by 2050, a significant saving.”

He also said UKOG had estimated a carbon footprint saving of 1 million tonnes if the Dunsfold scheme (also called Loxley) were successful.

Mr McAllister added:

“it therefore makes considerable sense from a post COP26 carbon budget perspective to rapidly prioritise the use of lower carbon footprint domestic gas over imports, where possible.

“Importing higher carbon footprint gas of equivalent volume to Loxley therefore makes little carbon budget sense, unless the goal is to offshore the UK’s environmental responsibility and economic opportunity.”

His letter added that the government’s vision was to use gas as a source of blue hydrogen, where carbon is captured, used or stored. UKOG had told a planning inquiry last summer that it planned to use Dunsfold gas as a feedstock for hydrogen – if exploration were successful and permission for production were also granted after a future application.

Mr McAllister added:

“If the UK is committed to a post COP26 hydrogen economy, then surely indigenous blue hydrogen feedstock sources such as Loxley merit drilling, provided that they comply with necessary planning requirements and other regulations?”

He also said energy produced from a 2ha onshore gas site would “typically need a wind farm 750 times the size”.

“In terms of maximising energy production per square km, Dunsfold represents one of the best local opportunities for UK energy production. The energy from such gas is also 24/7 irrespective of the weather for the life of the field.”

Mr McAllister said:

“Our ask is that you consider these facts and take an objective view as to the merits of developing such key resources that can play a demonstrable part in the UK’s post COP26 net zero ambitions and energy mix whilst protecting our balance of payments.”

5 replies »

  1. Makes sense. Seems to be more a case of not in my back yard than any genuine reason for refusal Maybe given the current situation regarding gas supply they might look at the bigger picture than the wishes of a few local villagers this is a National issue.

  2. The lowest emissions from gas are by pipeline from Europe, ie in respect of the U.K. Norway where we get the bulk of our gas from. This creates lower emissions than fracking.

    All the old arguments are being dredged up simply because we face price hikes and the industry seek to exploit these at every opportunity.

    We cannot afford to burn and extract more and more fossil fuels, whatever the source or country. That is the scientific reality. Being bounced into producing more onshore oil and gas because of the current situation is not the solution. Not only is the industry unproven but any gas would be a decade at least away. Not only that bat numerous studies, by ReFine and others cast serious doubt on the amount of gas that could be available because of fixed surface infrastructure, U.K. geology etc.

    Energy along with food and other essentials are increasing across the globe. We are all no doubt in for some difficult times but the problems we face now and the costs we face now, will be dwarfed by the costs that will result from climate breakdown. The outcome from COP26 was not to expand the U.K. onshore industry, quite the opposite.

  3. And further note, even if this is a conventional site, it still equals extracting more fossil fuels that will be burned and adds to both U.K. and global emissions. We have to reduce emissions drastically, Mr Hunt was exactly right, granting this permission is a huge, backwards step.

  4. Oops, KatT.

    Quick reverse gear selected there, but a bit late.

    I am surprised it needed the industry to remind Mr. Hunt what the policy was. He could have attended the HoC yesterday and taken part in the debate about VAT on energy bills and hear his own Ministers provide the information. Quite clear about utilising local resources for oil and gas.

    This site would not add more emissions than Norwegian gas. It would add less, if converted to hydrogen. And, I understand Norway have every intention of exploring for more gas to export, including within the Arctic. Not sure you are doing your environmental credentials any favours supporting that versus the end user taking responsibility in their own backyard, for producing what they use. What next? UK residents can eat whales instead of beef, because beef cows in fields in the UK are not to your liking?

    You may be correct that there is not sufficient gas at this site, although you muddied the waters a bit with your desire to incorporate fracking. However, if that is the case then the exploration will be done and dusted (see what I did there?) within a short period and the site restored.

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