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.
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.”