Water reinjection permitted at Horse Hill

The Horse Hill oil site in Surrey has been granted permission to pump waste water underground.

Horse Hill oil site in Surrey, October 2021. Photo: Weald Action Group

The Environment Agency confirmed today it had extended the site’s permit to allow disposal of salty formation water that comes to the surface during oil extraction.

Horse Hill’s parent company, UK Oil & Gas plc, said water reinjection would help to improve the flow of oil. It would also dispose of waste liquid more cheaply, the company said.

The changes to the permit allow:

  • pumping of formation and surface water into two reinjection wells
  • drilling and 90-day testing of four new boreholes and associated side-tracks
  • oil production from the new wells
  • burning of waste gas up to 10 tonnes per day during production
  • acid wash and solvent treatments to improve oil flows

In a statement today, UKOG said it would now go ahead with plans to convert the Horse Hill-2z well (HH-2z) into a water re-injector during 2022. The company also has permission to drill a second reinjection well.

UKOG’s chief executive, Stephen Sanderson, said:

“[the permit] finally enables UKOG to return Horse Hill’s produced saline formation water back to the oil-bearing Portland rocks where it originated, lowering operating costs per barrel, removing HGV tankers from congested roads and reducing the field’s overall carbon footprint. The ability to reinject makes both environmental and economic good sense”.

The Horse Hill site currently extracts oil from the Portland formation but has drilled into the Kimmeridge.

UKOG said today it was now looking at the viability of restarting production from the Kimmeridge and drilling more wells into the Portland formation.

Shares in UKOG rose rapidly on the news of the permit approval. At the close of trading, they were up more than 70% at 0.19p.


Nearly 500 members of the public, as well as parish councils and campaign groups, responded to the Environment Agency’s first consultation on the permit changes in 2019.

They raised concerns about water reinjection inducing seismic activity, following a series of earthquakes in the area in 2018 and 2019.

Other worries included gas flaring and air quality, water pollution, carbon emissions, acid wash operations, and the ability of the Environment Agency to monitor the site.

Sarah Finch at Horse Hill oil site. Photo: Weald Action Group

Sarah Finch, an opponent of operations at Horse Hill, told DrillOrDrop today:

“I’m disappointed that the EA have given UKOG the go-ahead to flare up to 10 tonnes of gas a day. The planning permission was granted on the basis that this gas would be used to generate electricity. With the current climate and energy crises, gas should not be viewed as a waste product.

“Also disappointing are the absence of any limits on volume or pressure regarding the use of acid and the failure to require recent seismic surveys. It’s particularly worrying given that this permit allows water reinjection, which can cause earthquakes.

“The geology around Horse Hill in particular is known to have critically stressed faults, where even very small pressure changes can trigger earthquakes. The EA appear to have ignored detailed expert submissions on this.”

Second approval awaited

UKOG is still waiting for permission from the industry regulator, the North Sea Transition Authority, to convert the HH-2z well to waste reinjection.

An addendum to the Horse Hill field development plan, submitted in 2020, has not yet been approved.

A UKOG spokesperson told DrillOrDrop today:

“NTSA and ourselves were first awaiting the EA permit approval.”

Another hurdle may also remain to UKOG’s plans.

In March, Ms Finch said she was seeking permission to take her legal challenge to oil production at Horse Hill to the highest court in the land.

She has previously argued at the High Court and Court of Appeal that Surrey County Council acted unlawfully in September 2019 when it granted planning permission for production and more wells at Horse Hill.

She has now applied to argue at the Supreme Court that the council should have taken account of greenhouse gas emissions from the use of Horse Hill oil, known as downstream or indirect emissions.

  • The Environment Agency recently granted permission for waste water reinjection at Brockham, another oil site in Surrey

5 replies »

  1. Do not worry, Sarah.

    UKOG are quite willing to produce some gas at another site. Good to see how supportive you are within the energy crisis to make best use of UK gas. I have a suspicion that you may hear good news on that shortly.

    • “[the permit] finally enables UKOG to return Horse Hill’s produced saline formation water back to the oil-bearing Portland rocks where it originated, lowering operating costs per barrel, removing HGV tankers from congested roads and reducing the field’s overall carbon footprint. The ability to reinject makes both environmental and economic good sense”.

      Perhaps they could reinject the oil back down to the oil-bearing Portland rocks where it originated, lowering operating costs per barrel, removing HGV tankers from congested roads and reducing the field’s overall carbon footprint. The ability to reinject makes both environmental and economic good sense?

      And then to reinject the waste gas back to the oil-bearing Portland rocks where it originated, rather than flare 10 tonnes of waste poisonous gas in multiple bird roasters which not only murders birdlife and insect life, but pollutes the atmosphere with poisonous combustion products, methane and CO2, thereby lowering operating costs per location to net-zero, removing all HGV tankers from congested roads and reducing the field’s overall carbon footprint to a net-zero negative CO2 absorber. The ability to reinject makes all three makes for environmental and economic good sense, but for the environment it is better that the site is returned to nature and allowed to reabsorb gasses and give out oxygen into not only a net-zero emitter, but a net positive absorber and an emitter of oxygen?

      Now it just so happens, by some odd coincidence, that the country, and the world, is in a cost of living crisis. Across the country, millions of families can’t keep up with their bills as energy, food, fuel and other everyday costs soar. From pensioners to children, too many are being plunged into poverty as a result. Many people are left with the choice between heating their homes or feeding their families. This is a scandal.

      Another coincidence, something to do with synchronicity perhaps, is that the vast unearned profits are being made by the already vastly rich fossil fuel industry that they have themselves declared, that they don’t know what to do with?

      Unless……maybe there is something they can do with all that vast unearned income that they don’t know what to do with?

      Now here’s a wild idea…..that the proceeds of allowing such a massive net producer of carbon and pollution, and vast absorber of oxygen in combustion in bird roasters, HGV gas guzzlers, choking roads and end product fossil fuel net positive carbon and pollution producers. And the inevitable plastic pollution from fossil fuel production that chokes the stomachs of billions if not trillions of animals worldwide and microplastics that choke babies, and fill the skies to highest mountain and chokes the oceans, down to the lowest oceanic trench.

      That any proceeds from such a net carbon producer and atmosphere polluter, as Horse Hill, Could be taxed and the proceeds given to those in dire energy and financial poverty and to pay for cleaning up all the damage and plastic and pollution and habitat destruction from the planet?

      Now what should such a tax be called?

      Hmm, now, when a fruit tree is full of fruit, eventually the lowest to the highest hanging fruit falls to the ground without anyone having to climb up and pick them….all you need to do….is to pick it up and use it for the betterment of all……no, don’t balk at the suggestion, because it gets better….

      So maybe all that free unearned money made by the fossil fuel industry, from unearned profits due to war and just plain false accounting and tax avoidance. Not to mention hiking the prices way up above anything that would just provide a reasonable profit, any tax levied to balance the books, could be called….A Wind Fall Tax?

      Now I know that’s a controversial suggestion, but the more it is considered, the more logic and just plain old common sense it makes? Whichever way you look at it?

      I wonder if it will catch on?

      • Yes it will. Since Horse Hill is better abandoned and returned to nature to create more oxygen production and absorb more carbon, and the extraction process prevented from creating further damage worldwide. The proceeds would have never been used for cheap energy locally, it would be sold on the open market for pure profit.

        If fossil fuels can be called pure, that is. Some of that money can be spent on sustainable energy sources. And the fossil fuel industry is so rich from unearned income from the last 150 years of monopolistic profiteering.

        The more the Wind Fall Tax suggestion is explored, the more sense it makes.

        The fossil fuel industry don’t know what to do with the vast increase in profits, so they won’t miss it.

        The people who are starving and unable to pay their bills or heat their homes in energy poverty and financial poverty do need it. Since none of this was their fault. So why should they suffer for greed and power mongering.

        The planet will get assistance from clean up programs, using some of that money to clean up the country from fossil fuel pollution and macro and microplastic debris.

        The animals worldwide on land and sea could be helped by making the polluter pay to clean up their mess.

        The government will get applauded for doing the right thing, and even when certain….Party Gates….are pushed fully wide opened.
        Maybe even Rishi and Boris might just get forgiven (a long shot, but worth mentioning) and the process of taxing the polluter could be extended to all the other financial and other industries who support the fossil fuel industry.

        The fossil fuel subsidies and tax breaks could be reconsidered to balance the books more openly there, too.

        Fredly, it’s a win, win, win, win, win, win situation that is begging for someone who is perhaps….in a bit of a fix at the moment….due to that Party Gate being locked too quickly and not exactly told the truth about rather too often and too loudly.

        Everyone wins, no one loses.

        There, that cleared the air a bit, didn’t it?

  2. What tosh.

    Paid back the £400k to tax payers as the costs awarded from the Wressle planning application yet?

    Come on, Phil C , I think it is called Crowd Funding, where the crowd who created the cost pay the cost. Nope. They just look to rinse and repeat, and let the tax payer pick up the bill and also have the “joy” of not receiving tax from a business.

    Strange (lol) where those who have been advocating and cheering the demise of the fossil fuel companies, can so quickly seek their help when the effluent hits the fan. Perhaps another tax there, upon those who have been peddling fake news that fossil fuels are no longer required, when it is now shown they obviously are? Just more of them, so supply and demand balance slips the other way, and price drops.

    Do not worry. I am sure UKOG will pay some more tax as and when they can produce enough to make a profit.

  3. Posting of the Wressle requirement for monies to be refunded, I note they are moving ahead with their plans to connect gas to the grid, hopefully by the end of 2022, which should also lift the current constraint upon oil output, and maybe also accelerate their plans to access the other gas reported to be available.

    Maybe Egdon etc. will return monies to the tax payer that the protestors cost them?

    Ironic. But, that is what is needed when those para-sites strike. The damage has to be repaired by someone else, perhaps a veterinary surgeon, in this case one of those FF companies.

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