Company rejects MP’s opposition to consent for Dunsfold gas drilling

The company behind gas exploration near the Surrey village of Dunsfold has complained to the local MP, Jeremy Hunt, about his comments that it would cause “enormous damage and disruption”.

Stephen Sanderson, chief executive of UK Oil & Gas plc. Photo: DrillOrDrop

UK Oil & Gas (UKOG) said it took “serious issue with assertions” made by Mr Hunt following ministerial approval of the Dunsfold scheme last week.

In a letter to the communities’ secretary, Mr Hunt said the grant of planning permission had caused “enormous anger and disappointment” locally.  

Mr Hunt said;

“ignoring the strength of local opinion goes against the government’s commitment to the devolution of powers and strengthening local communities as well as our net zero commitments.”

He said he could not see how Dunsfold had “any role to play in our future energy supply needs.” It would take years to confirm whether it was commercially viable, he said. By then, the UK would be “well on our way to reducing our reliance on fossil fuels”, Mr Hunt said.

The plans for an exploration site with vertical and side-track wells and access road would “create enormous disruption and environmental damage for little if any economic benefit”, the MP said.

He told constituents he would consider whether the decision could be challenged in the High Court.

The Dunsfold decision followed an online public inquiry in 2021.

UKOG appealed after two hearings by Surrey County Council at which councillors voted narrowly to refuse the scheme, against the advice of planning officers. Waverley District Council and six parish councils and amenity groups had objected to the application, along with 84% of public submissions.

UKOG’s chief executive, Stephen Sanderson, one of Mr Hunt’s constituents, replied that it was “wholly false and untrue” for the MP to assert that the development would create environmental damage.

Mr Sanderson added:

“Your assertion that our activities will be hugely disruptive also seems highly exaggerated.”

The site required one well and a sidetrack to confirm whether it was commercially viable, Mr Sanderson said. The drilling rig would be on site for a total of 75 days, he said.

UKOG had also agreed to a “a plethora” of impact mitigation measures, he added.

Mr Sanderson said the proposal at Dunsfold made “perfect strategic, economic and environmental sense for Surrey and UK”.

He said the MP’s comments “disregarded the British Energy Security Strategy, Hydrogen Strategy, National Grid Future Energy Scenarios and CCC forecasts”.

UKOG has previously said that if the Dunsfold scheme were successful and commercial volumes were extracted, some gas would be turned into blue hydrogen (where carbon emissions were captured and stored).

About three-quarters of world hydrogen production is grey hydrogen, without capturing the carbon.

The use of carbon capture and storage to produce blue hydrogen is not yet widely commercial, industry experts concede. Some academics and commentators have said blue hydrogen production would lock the world into fossil fuel extraction. Last month the think tank, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said blue hydrogen schemes risked becoming stranded assets.

But Mr Sanderson said in his letter that UKOG had earmarked 43-70 billion cubic feet of gas as a source of blue hydrogen. This was capable of delivering an 85% reduction in carbon emissions if carbon capture and storage were used, he said.

He said the Dunsfold project would “help not hinder” progress to net zero carbon emissions.

He said gas would play a ”significant role in the energy transition”. Domestically-produced gas from Dunsfold would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 1 million tonnes, compared with the equivalent volume of imported gas, he said.

Responding to Mr Hunt’s comment that Dunsfold would have little economic value, Mr Sanderson said estimated annual gas volumes produced would be the equivalent to annual gas consumption of 110,000 homes.

The project would “be of significant material benefit to both the exchequer and the Surrey economy over its expected 20-year life”.

DrillOrDrop invited Jeremy Hunt to comment on Mr Sanderson’s letter.

13 replies »

  1. Just a small point about the headline: they haven’t ‘refuted’ it. To refute means to show it to be untrue. They have contradicted it, and asserted one or two points of their own, but they certainly haven’t refuted it. Don’t give them the credit!

    • Thanks very much for your comment. You’re right and I’ve edited the headline to be more accurate. Best wishes, /ruth

  2. UKOG are obviously worried by this , enough for Sanderson to actually do something for his half million £££s a year. Nice work if you can get it .

  3. I’m curious how Sanderson states there is economic benefit to Surrey. He whitters on about local jobs in UKOG, and yes Sanderson and his CFO live in Surrey, but everyone else is a sub contractor from outside the county. Maybe he means they’ll buy a few sandwiches at the BP garage on their way to work, so yes, Surrey is quids in the better.

  4. Methinks there is a lot of gesturing going on which is ill informed, and is taking the public for fools.

    Firstly, there was whinging about Loxley being exploration for oil, now there is Hunt writing to Gove, who recused himself from the matter a long time ago!

    Finance for Surrey? Well, most sites if developed pay into a Community Fund, unlike protestors who have the dubious history of costing communities money-£400k for Wressle.

    Perhaps Mr. Hunt would do better to visit existing UK on shore sites and observe how little damage and disruption is caused. A lot of examples where it could easily be shown that “enormous damage and environmental disruption” to be untrue, accuracyworks.

  5. ”some gas would be turned into blue hydrogen (where carbon emissions were captured and stored).”

    Promises promises.

    Bit like the oft-promised, now abandoned “gas to wire” scheme at Horse Hill.

    Or the multiple billions of barrels of oil in the famous Kimmeridge “conventional” “oil pool” stretching across the Weald 😆.

    No wonder he’s known as “lying Steve Sanderson” by share pundits and investors.

  6. Interesting comments Dorkinian!

    You appear to be stating that not all share pundits and investors agree. Well, looking at the comment section on DoD neither do the antis.

    Meanwhile, I have no doubt there is a great deal of oil under the Weald. Getting it out appears to be the issue.

    Noted that Glencore have a large CCS scheme in Australia for a coal fired power station, where the emissions are to be piped 100km to then be stored. That could be quite an interesting project. Goodness, would coal then need to be reclassified as a green fuel? Maybe the comments I noted from the scientists at Cambridge and Oxford a while ago that referred to fossil fuels not being an issue if the carbon was dealt with, may have some validity.

    UKOG to produce hydrogen. Maybe. Ineos to produce hydrogen, definitely. Ineos to produce vehicles to run on hydrogen, definitely. Good job there are such companies doing what is needed to enable transition whilst others scoff about their efforts, and create devil masks to attempt to demonize.

  7. Natural Gas prices up 30% today, yes 30% in one day, probably on the back of Putin restricting gas supplies into Europe. Yet onshore gas production is still just a political pawn with no-one taking the impact of rising prices seriously. For the umpteenth time, energy policy involves balancing 4 major considerations…
    1. Climate and environmental considerations
    2. Cost to the consumer.
    3. Reliability and predictability of supply.
    4. Security of supply.
    What’s the most important? You decide and live with the consequences.

  8. Shalewatcher:

    The important point is that others are wanting to decide and then leaving the rest of us to live with the consequences.

    Wouldn’t mind that too much if the others had any semblance of a decent track record in making such decisions previously. The alternative lot certainly have one of the worst, (Cash for Ash was an example) and most European Governments have been pretty poor since they started to try and placate small groups of noisy activists. Out of a bad bunch, UK have not been so bad, but there is a lot of catching up to do and it shouldn’t have taken a conflict to demonstrate that. Whatever happened to planning for all contingencies? Remember Mrs Merkel? Such a marvelous astute politician? Now, her legacy will be the disaster of German energy policy highlighted by Nord Stream 2, that I recall Trump was vilified for being so against. History has a nasty habit of showing how quickly reality overtakes spin.

      • Indeed Paul, and there were enough idiots who thought the scheme was such a great idea that it was introduced without a great deal of scrutiny, and run without a great deal of scrutiny. Interesting that there is a plethora of such over the last few years, and more advocated-such as the Swansea Lagoon where detailed costings have yet to be offered and no commercial company sees the scheme worth investing to develop. Then there is using wheat to plonk in petrol tanks, so that the vehicles use more fuel, it is no cheaper, the households pay through the nose as any food based on wheat is more expensive, including animal protein, and the scientists who originally stated it was reducing carbon footprints now have other scientists saying, oh no it doesn’t. Here, in the UK, someone could have easily calculated that targets of wheat use for such purposes were out of step with average amounts of wheat produced in UK, and something would have to give. And, it has, and it is the householder giving! Good practice for when they receive the £160B bill for new nuclear required to support that “cheap renewable” project already funded by them, but now admitted that it is not reliable and more of it without support will just be more unreliable.

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